Caltrain continues to try to hook itself to High Cost Rail thinking that the giant boondoggle will spill enough excess cash on the Peninsula to accomplish the upgrades it thinks it needs. I say "thinks it needs" because it appears to be completely convinced that electrifying it's SF-SJ route is the only way to improve the service, yet all it has to do is look a little north to see an alternative.
The Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) system is using smarter diesel train technology to get into service quickly. The first 39 mile phase is due to be operational in three to four years on track that has been out of service for years. But the pertinent aspect for us poor Peninsula residents is SMART's choice of Diesel Multiple Unit technology--a modern diesel approach. If you don't want to wade through the 165 page spec, here is Wikipedia's summary
A train composed of DMU cars scales well as it allows extra passenger capacity to be added at the same time as motive power. It also permits passenger capacity to be matched to demand, and for trains to be split and joined en-route. It is not necessary to match the power available to the size and weight of the train - each unit is capable of moving itself, so as units are added, the power available to move the train increases by the necessary amount.
Distribution of the propulsion among the cars also results in a system that is less vulnerable to single-point-of-failure outages. Many classes of DMU are capable of operating with faulty units still in the consist. Because of the self contained nature of diesel engines, there is no need to run overhead electric lines or electrified track, which can result in lower system construction costs.
These advantages often outweigh the underfloor noise and vibration that may be a problem with this type of train.
And of course if Marin chose it, you know it's at least a bit green. SMART says they "produce less than half the CO2, one-eight the NOx and one-fifth the particulate matter of a standard locomotive-hauled train." Heck with that improvement, maybe leaf blowers can stay as they are in town!
So the question remains, why can't Caltrain be smarter instead pandering to High Cost Rail and helping to ruin the Peninsula's downtown areas and the state's finances?