Caltrain 2004 Electrification EA/DEIR Comments -- Michael Kiesling

From: Michael Kiesling
Re: Comments on Caltrain Electrification DEA/EIR
May 23, 2004

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on this crucial project, not just for Caltrain and its passengers, but for the communities that Caltrain traverses and the entire Bay Area. Electrifying the railroad will improve train performance, remove the uncertainty of fluctuations in fuel prices from Caltrain's budget, ease vehicle maintenance, and provide a cleaner and quieter neighbor for the towns and cities the railway runs through.

Electrification Alternative, Rolling Stock Options:

The DEIR should list the lifespan of Caltrain's existing rolling stock. This should include the original gallery car fleet, the second gallery car fleet, and the "Baby Bullet" Bombardier fleet. The report should consider the remaining lifespan of the equipment in the existing fleet and the lifecycle costs associated with maintaining the existing fleet into the future under the "Replace Locomotives Only" Option. List the net-worth remaining in the existing fleet to accurately show the true cost of partial or full fleet replacement.

The DEIR must consider the MOU between the Caltrain Peninsula Corridor JPB and the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA). This MOU covers the anticipated operation of non-FRA compliant high speeds train on the Caltrain line, in mixed traffic with Caltrain. This MPU sets the stage for non-FRA equipment to run in the corridor. The DEIR must consider the myriad of EMUs and passenger equipment available on the world market when discussing fleet replacement issues, and not simply discard an equipment option due to its non-FRA compatibility.

The DEIR should include simulations of operations under each rolling stock scenario to quantify the performance of each rolling stock option. This should include, if possible, the boarding performance of low(er) floor trains and multiple doors, and add this to the total time savings.

Project Alternatives:

The DEIR should look at a Minimum Operable Scenario that acknowledges the financial commitments to the project. Specifically, the DEIR should discuss an option that electrifies south only to Palo Alto. This would reduce the initial project costs significantly by eliminating two of the three Primary Substations and their associated Paralleling Stations and Switching Stations. It would also significantly reduce initial rolling stock acquisition costs, and approximately half of the track-miles of OCS. (Electrified equipment could be hauled to the CEMOF in Santa Clara by diesel locomotives for heavy maintenance, with light maintenance performed at the San Francisco terminal. Existing Caltrain practices now require deadheading equipment to Oakland or Roseville for the same maintenance, the deadheadding from Palo Alto to San Jose is a small fraction of the distance.)

Electrification to Gilroy should be eliminated. Instead, service patterns that bring diesel-hauled Gilroy trains to a point north of San Jose to blend the electric and non-electric services should be assumed. The headways for service south of San Jose, combined with the UPRR ownership of the ROW and the FRA-compatibility issues make the electrification of non-JPB owned ROW very expensive and problematic. Funding would be better spent on operational improvements and upgrades to the Gilroy service, but even far-distant service levels do not come anywhere close to warranting electrification south of San Jose.

Design Issues:

The DEIR should consider the use of pre-stressed concrete for the OCS poles, with respect to lifecycle costs, initial capital cost, and environmental impacts.

The DEIR should consider the placement of a pair of OCS poles serving two tracks each along a 4-track ROW, as opposed to two poles with a four-track headspan.

Future Rail and Bus Transit and Projected Impacts:

The DEIR should explain the feasibility of a grade crossing with MUNI's 600v dc trolleybus OCS at the 16th Street grade crossing.

Implementation Issues:

Manufacturers should be identified for a possible Design Build Operate Maintain scenario, and the EIR should list recent world examples of this method of procurement.

Design should continue, regardless of project phasing or possible MOS strategies, for the entire San Francisco -- San Jose project. Necessary track shutdowns for upcoming projects should allow for concurrent pre-construction activities for electrification. As the design progresses, foundations for OCS poles could easily be constructed while other work is performed.

Thanks again for the consideration of these comments on the Electrification DEIR.

Michael Kiesling
Architecture 21
San Francisco, CA