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February 18, 2017


Kevin Hecteman

Electrification has been talked about since long before HSR ever came along. I remember that being talked about when I was in high school (1988-1992). Since Caltrain was and is the neglected stepchild of Bay Area public transit, I think I can understand why they could use the $647M and why Rep. Eshoo is (ahem) steamed.

Tier 4 could be interesting, although the big "if" is acceleration. One new locomotive that could be worth checking out in that regard is the Siemens Charger. (Siemens is a German company with a sizable factory in Sacramento.) Keep in mind, though, many of Caltrain's coaches are 30+ years old and also due for replacement.

High times.

BRAND NEW Fax Machines for everyone!

People don't live, work and commute in "Spines" like an old fashion train.

Thank God that Trump is helping to Stop The High Speed Fail!



Thank you, Joe, for mentioning Tier 4 Clean Diesel technology. If it's quieter with quicker acceleration than CalTrain, than it's the best (and only) answer. And I don't think this diesel technology will necessitate the removal of the Eucalyptus trees along the corridor.


As I understand it, there's no such thing as clean diesel. Isn't this why the air quality of Europe is so terrible? And why Volkswagen had to fake its emissions standards? I don't think I'm in support of something that's been proven to be so harmful to people's health.

local motion

But do you understand it? Where is your information coming from? There no such thing as clean electricity for most of the 24 hours in a cloudy or calm day either. Why do you think there is any free lunch in power?


Diesel is definitely not cleaner than electric, given that ~70% of electricity in California is generated by natural gas or renewables (http://www.energy.ca.gov/almanac/electricity_data/total_system_power.html). The stated benefits of electrification are that it's cleaner, quieter and faster (i.e. better acceleration) than the existing system. I'm sure new diesel would be better in each of these respects than old diesel, but I suspect it would be much worse than electric.

You don't need to be in favor of the whole HSR concept to understand that cleaner, quieter and faster Caltrain service would be a big improvement.


I've been wondering about the comparisons as well, so a bit of digging yields some info:

Tier 4 refers to a generation of federal air emissions standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that apply to new diesel engines used in off-road equipment. Essentially it requires manufacturers to reduce the levels of particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) to a level that is 50-96 percent lower than existing generation of diesel engines.

Most Tier 4 engines will be electronically controlled, meaning that a computer will monitor and adjust the fuel and air mixture to optimize emissions and performance for the engine on a real-time basis. In addition, changes in the engine will include new and different systems to accommodate the increased heat rejection of the new engines. For the first time,
most off-road equipment will likely incorporate emissions control technology in the exhaust system, such as a catalytic converter and/or particulate filter, typically in place of the existing muffler and exhaust system.

Diesel engine emissions have been moving progressively toward zero levels for several years and Tier 4 Final emissions are near zero.



Perhaps you have read about the Caltrain petition to the Federal government to approve the HSR-dependent funding for electrification. You can read about it here:


Well, Voice readers, I suggest you go here to sign the opposing petition that would make Caltrain stand on its own two feet (which frankly are much more stable than HSR's wobbly legs):


pat giorni

I just signed and posted to Facebook...


...and urge all of you to do the same.


On it.

Christopher Cooke

I support electrifying CalTrain. Much quieter, cleaner and faster. I understand the opposition to HSR but this was stupid and shot us in the foot. We don't get any federal money and have to live with dirty diesel trains. How does that help Burlingame?

just looking

In the words of John Horgan from his column "It was not a shock. Caltrain boosters were cautioned that there could be undesired ramifications if they became locked in a high-speed embrace. And here we are." In the words of Forrest Gump "Stupid is as stupid does".

Horgan wrote this

In spite of all the weeping and gnashing of teeth on display last week when the Trump Administration put an indefinite halt to plans to electrify the Caltrain rail line along the Peninsula, backers of the proposal had to know they were taking a bold gamble when they conveniently hopped into bed with another far more controversial and disruptive project some years ago.

That would be high-speed rail, of course. The fateful decision to allow what were supposed to be super-fast trains to use Caltrain’s tracks from San Jose to San Francisco has proven to be a potential disaster.

The idea was a grand tradeoff: Share the existing commuter line’s tracks in return for the handy use of what turned out to be $647 million in potential federal high-speed funds to assist the move to electrify the Peninsula system.

The agreement also would prevent HSR from constructing its own, separate set of tracks parallel to Caltrain’s that would, by necessity, widen the corridor and create the need for what was said to be a preferred _ and unsightly and divisive _ viaduct/berm option right through much of the Peninsula.

The uneasy marriage was a worrisome arrangement right from the start.

And then there was the tender matter of the sheer cost of the massive HSR project itself, currently said to be $64 billion, and counting. That was the real elephant in the room.

Adamant conservative foes of the proposed fast-train system, which has been slated to link Los Angeles and San Francisco, have long argued that the setup would be a fiscal black hole. Now, with skeptical Republicans dominating the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and White House, the flow of federal cash to a dubious project has been stopped.

It was not a shock. Caltrain boosters were cautioned that there could be undesired ramifications if they became locked in a high-speed embrace. And here we are.

Bruce Dickinson

Fellas, to add onto what the poster above said, speaking of bad decisions, the last time I checked, I didn't see any city council members coming out and opposing HSR outright and with any semblance of backbone. Yet another example of hitching onto the wrong wagon, with tentatively couched, caveated non-controversial stances.

Bruce Dickinson is advocating the Burlingame "regime change" angle more and more! Time for actual representation!


Thank you, just looking, for the post. You beat me to it. It would be good if you just took an excerpt and put in the link after it. We'd like to give credit where it's due (the Mercury News).



While we are at it, check this bit of investigative reporting out:

A top Obama administration executive at the U.S. Department of Transportation approved a $647-million grant for a California rail project in mid-January and less than two weeks later went to work for a Los Angeles-based contractor involved in the project, The (Los Angeles) Times has learned.

The grant provides a significant part of the money required to install a $2-billion electrical power system on the Bay Area’s Caltrain commuter rail system, allowing the rail to retire its diesel locomotives.

The power equipment will eventually be used by the state’s bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, making it a critical part of the $64-billion program. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has pledged about $713 million to help install the system, according to state records.

The grant was handled by Carolyn Flowers, the acting chief of the Federal Transit Administration. Flowers announced the grant approval in a letter, dated Jan. 18, to congressional leaders. The Times obtained a copy of the letter.



The blaring headline of today's Daily Post is "Caltrain fires key contractor". Sub-head "Engineering firm installing safety system blamed for 'utter lack of progress' ". It turns out Caltrain has fired a well-known name to those of us who follow Caltrain and High-cost rail: Parsons Transportation Group of Washington, D.C. They were hired to put in the "Positive Train Control (PTC)" system which basically looks over the conductor's shoulder for problems. Here is the best part

"Another problem, the peer reviewers said, was that Caltrain didn't have a "qualified" manager running the project. Without a stron technical team within Caltrain, the oversight of Parsons had fallen on the agency's management consultants, the report said."

Three observations from this peanut gallery:

1. People have known Caltrain has little in-house technical expertise for years.

1a. People have commented on how many management consultants result from point 1 for years.

2. What taxpayer in their right mind would send another $647 million dollar check to an agency that cannot implement PTC (which was supposed to be DONE IN 2015)?


This time it appears that Caltrain may be picking on someone that can fight back. You have to wonder why this wasn't resolved first (oh, wait, see comment directly above):

Owners of the Hillsdale Shopping Center may face eminent domain proceedings as transportation officials look to secure a strip of land needed for Caltrain’s plans to create three new grade-separated crossings and relocate a nearby San Mateo train station.

A jury could eventually determine how much the transit agency pays to the private property owner since negotiations are stalling over the undisclosed price of a 16,330-square-foot strip of land spanning a parking lot slated to become a public road immediately east of El Camino Real between Ana Furniture and the vacant TGI Fridays building.

Caltrain’s long-planned $180 million project includes moving the Hillsdale Caltrain station further north and raising the tracks at 25th Avenue, and adding new crossings at 28th and 31st avenues.

Creating the new connection at 31st avenue, which currently dead-ends at the railroad tracks to the east and at El Camino Real to the west, will require purchasing land from property owner Bohannon Development Company. The local company owns the shopping center and property across El Camino Real near the existing Hillsdale Caltrain station.

- See more at: http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2017-03-03/caltrain-eyes-eminent-domain-transit-agency-unable-to-negotiate-land-deal-for-san-mateo-grade-separation/1776425176738.html#sthash.ny4D4LdB.dpuf

Seth Lepowitz

If you want to electrify then pay for it in out of your own pockets. Obama's grant was nothing more than a welfare check. Raise the rates for riders. Quit asking the Federal Gov to pay for everything.

I am glad they are withholding funds. Not surprising since your elected Idiot politicians spend all their time bashing the new President. Try being a little more civil to Trump and I bet you get some Booty which is reserved for Team Players. Additionally; the sanctuary status to protect illegal aliens is going to slowly choke California out-of-business.

I have to admit....it's fun to watch.


Here is more of the same old tired tripe from an out of touch ex-politician. One of these days the Daily Journal might have to grade separate its talent :-)



And here is a fantastic response from a very well informed citizen. It is a letter to the Daily Journal editor from yesterday:


Noted from Sue Lempert’s article “The attempt to kill electrified Caltrain” (March 13, 2017).

Each weekday, the rail service carries 65,000 passengers. Electrification will boost that to 110,000 to meet the demand.

The truth is that ridership capacity of the corridor will be reduced, since Caltrain is giving 40 percent of the track capacity to high-speed rail. Even a cursory overview of ridership capacity shows that before 2040, Caltrain will not be able to meet its mandate to service commuters adequately. The 110,000 riders she claims are “seated” riders. No indeed, this is the estimate when you ask 40 percent of riders to be standees, not seated. The FTA only counts capacity increases for seated passengers.

Every city council should wake up and realize the “blended plan” is a longer term fiasco. I can see news headlines in 2030 blasting, “expansion to four tracks along the Caltrain corridor needed.” Eminent domain will be the order of the day for many needed land parcels and certainly in Menlo Park, and other cities, four tracks means a complete division of cities into east and west of the tracks.

Morris Brown

Menlo Park


Oh well:

In a decision that thrilled Bay Area politicians and tech industry leaders as much as Caltrain commuters, federal transportation officials agreed Monday to approve a $647 million grant to modernize and electrify the 154-year-old commuter railroad that links San Francisco and San Jose.

The announcement that the Federal Transit Administration will sign the federal grant agreement ends a battle between California’s Republican congressional delegation, which persuaded the Trump administration to put the grant on hold, and a coalition of the Bay Area’s elected representatives, Silicon Valley executives, transportation officials and commuters that said the Caltrain project was crucial to the Bay Area, state and federal economies.

There goes good money before bad.......

local motion

The camel's nose is under the tent and his breath is stinky.

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