Friday, October 21, 2011

Some bad news for San Jose-San Francisco CAHSR

A recent CAHSRA memo bodes poorly for the current planning up in the Bay Area:

Since June, Caltrain has made significant progress in determining what capacity could be realized on the Caltrain corridor. The HST service would require at least four trains per hour per direction to serve the estimated passenger demand to and from the Peninsula and San Francisco. The Phase 1 service plan used for the Project‐level SF to SJ EIR stated that eight high‐speed trains phpd would be required for a fully built out Phase 1 during peak periods. Consequently, Caltrain has focused its operations simulation efforts on studying scenarios with six Caltrain trains and four high‐speed trains phpd which will offer the required performance level expected of high‐speed rail and the passenger capacity expected during this initial phase. While the initial model results show promise that such an operation is possible, as discussed above there are compromises that will need to be made by the Authority in order for the blended approach to work. Specifically the Authority will need to accept:
• That the high speed trains will not operate at 125 mph as originally envisioned for the SF to SJ corridor and consequently not be able to make the 30 minute travel time goal between SF and SJ as stated in Proposition 1A. It is not yet clear whether high‐speed trains will need to operate at 79 mph or possibly may be able to reach speeds of up to 110 mph on the Caltrain corridor. Further investigation continues.
• That the high‐speed trains will operate on a railroad with “at‐grade” crossings. The original performance criteria for the statewide system required a “fully grade‐separated” system.

An estimate of the capital cost of providing the necessary infrastructure for a blended solution indicates that it remains substantial. Initial estimates based on the existing engineering work by the Authority puts the total at approximately $5.3 billion (2010 dollars) for the mid‐line overtake solution.
The Transbay Transit Center (TTC) in downtown San Francisco is the preferred destination for the statewide HST system in San Francisco. According to recent estimates from the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the estimated cost of developing the tunnels from 7th and Common Street, to the Transbay Terminal at Fremont and Mission Street is approximately $2.6‐$3 billion in year of expenditure dollars. This estimate includes the tunnels, stations and platforms at the TTC that would be able to serve thehigh‐speed and Caltrain trains. The $2.6 billion cost of this project is not currently included in the $5.3 billion estimate for the blended service described above.

At a grand total of eight billion dollars for the construction of a segment that will not manage the speeds (indeed, quite possibly being slower than current Metrolink and Amtrak trains in Orange County along the LOSSAN line) necessary to meet Prop 1A requirements, it is highly unlikely that CEO van Ark will not choose to "value engineer" the routing as is being studied with the renewed look at the Grapevine routing. Indeed, choosing to go with the superior Altamont corridor as a cost savings measure (since it would require a much smaller amount of shared ROW between Caltrain and CAHSR and would reduce the cost of the Sacramento extension) seems like it would almost be a slam dunk as the Authority is not prejudiced in its routing options, either Pacheco or Altamont, under the terms of Proposition 1A while the Authority is likely going to need to convince the Legislature to amend the law to permit the Grapevine route to proceed, bypassing Palmdale.

It also introduces the potential that an IOS encompassing the entire San Joaquin Valley, from Sacramento on south (and potentially to Los Angeles) might not be as crazy an idea as it initially seemed. Phase II extensions, after all, are permitted if they will not interfere with Phase I construction or funding. If extending to San Jose or San Francisco is delayed due to routing studies or insufficient capital, Sacramento may be ideally placed to take advantage of that delay, using the on-hand capital for a quick expansion and ignoring much of the current NIMBY issues in the Bay Area.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the Authority's apparent willingness to consider mixed traffic with at grade crossings. If it is willing to do so in the Bay Area, it may very well be willing to similarly do so in Southern California and adopt a "blended LOSSAN" system rather than the current Riverside-Inland Empire dogleg. Not only this save a tremendous amount of money, but while the total cost of a Los Angeles-San Diego LOSSAN upgrade retaining grade crossings is likely in the same eight billion dollar ballpark as San Jose-San Francisco, it has the advantage of serving a much greater populace with a far larger potential for automobile diversion and ridership than either the current dogleg or the Bay Area Caltrain upgrade.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Canadian Pacific rolling out an innovative new intermodal system

From RailwayAge:

Canadian Pacific on Monday said it will be the exclusive Canadian rail transportation provider for trailer supply company Contrans, using innovative multimodal flat rack containers from Calgary, Alberta-based Raildecks Intermodal.

CP has been testing Raildecks' 53-foot collapsible, multimodal carriers through this past summer at its Toronto Intermodal Facility in Vaughn, Ontario. The testing proved successful on CP's long-haul intermodal trains, offering an alternative to shippers who have been relying on trucks to move their products over a long distance, Raildecks said.

“Raildecks’ innovative product extends the efficiencies of intermodal rail to industrial products shippers,” said John McBoyle, vice-president Intermodal at Canadian Pacific. “We believe industrial product customers will be attracted to the consistency, efficiency and , reliability of our long-haul intermodal network.”

“The Raildecks solution provides a viable option to convert some of the industrial freight that is moving over the road to be transported on intermodal rail,” said Raildecks CEO Rick Jocson. “By converting a traditional over-the-road commodity to rail, Raildecks are reducing greenhouse gas emissions, freeing up major roads and highways, and reducing costs for shippers.”

“We are excited to be able to provide shippers with a brand new service offering,” stated Stan G. Dunford, Contrans' chairman and CEO. “This will revolutionize the long haul flatbed market and will result in substantial efficiencies and savings for shippers.”

The Raildecks solution should allow for increased use of rail by customers using flatbed trailers and cars at present. Additionally, routes currently constrained in train length due to sidings or other issues should see a capacity increase for those cargoes currently traveling on flat cars due to the doubling up that these cars provide.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

San Diego is doing something right: Double digit gains in Coaster and Sprinter ridership

The American Public Transportation Association has put out a report on growth in the use of public transit in the first six months of 2011 compared to 2010 and San Diego comes out leading the rest of California in terms of percentage gain. In light rail, Sprinter posted an 11.55% year over year gain, while the San Diego Trolley came in second with a 7.4% increase. Similarly, commuter rail showed a 17.13% increase for the Coaster. Altamont Commuter Express came in second with a 9.37% increase, closely followed by the Capitol Corridor's 9.17%. Metrolink, by contrast, came in at an utterly anemic 1.7% increase in year over year ridership.

While these figures are certainly going to be a bit inflated by the low starting position that San Diego's lines began from, compared to the rest of Californian systems (in absolute terms, for instance, Caltrain had three times the increase of Coaster), they still represent a major increase. They also pose an interesting question that I do not have the answer for at present: Why is Coaster doing so well while Metrolink is not?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Another's comments on Paris-Marseille TGV

Taking ericmarseille's comment from the CAHSR Blog:

Totally OFF TOPIC but, I hope, informative :

I came back yesterday from a trip in the Parisian region (Marseille-Paris and back, 480 miles)

The good :

- Took an IDTGV, so could book on internet and print the tickets myself
- Only €100 for the entire trip, decided only two days before departing
- Was able to upgrade to first class for €2 on the Marseille-Paris leg
- Was able to change my ticket the day before I was supposed to leave for a €10 fee and did it all on internet too, including printing the new ticket
- Still as fast and cool as ever
- on the return leg, arguably in an off period, I was able to strech my legs as much as I wanted for 45 min, I was in a face-to-face configuration and the guy who was in front of me got out at Avignon and nobody took his place. Everybody staying in the car after Avignon either was alone on its two seats side or didn’t have someone in front of him in face-to-face configuration, smart seat management from SNCF
- Los of seat and elbow room in first class (lateral seat configuration : 2+1 instead of 2+2 in second class) ; so much seat room in fact, that I felt a bit loose in my seat (and I’m 240lbs)
- The croque-Monsieur at the snack car, still shockingly good (I mean, good, which is shocking given SNCF standards)

The bad :

- Last-time tickets on the busiest part of the week-end can grow to up to €110 for a single trip
- First-generation TGV first class atmosphere (dark grey, dark red, and black) was good for regular TGVs, but on the duplex, lower and less luminous it is sad and even creepy
- On my first leg the TGV was so old that the first class car stank of old furniture textile, and even old, very old, cigarette odour ; the smells of the arguably refined perfumes that the first class passengers use in abundance, as a social status sign, all mixed, didn’t help either
- Not only that, but for the first time of my life in a TGV, I was annoyed by the noise of the train itself (still on the first leg, first class), which, instead of a whirr comparable to a cat’s purring, was rather comparable to a vacuum cleaner noise ; still not as noisy as the dreaded Parisian RER, but, hey, it had to be a very, very old TGV
- more than €6 for a croque-Monsieur, the rip-off goes on at the snack car

Additional thoughts:
1. Paris-Marseille, at 481 miles, is about a hundred miles further than Los Angeles-San Francisco. A one hundred euro fare, round-trip, is currently worth $132.90. Booked two days in advance, this is significantly cheaper than the vaunted Southwest fares between Los Angeles and San Francisco for two days in advance as well. Not only is it significantly lower than the $351.40 round trip fare, it is even cheaper than the $165 one way fare.
3. SNCF is probably in dire need of new or refitted rolling stock. Thankfully smoking odors won't be an issue with CAHSR trains.