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    Having HSR will help the Central Valley’s worst-in-the-nation air pollution in the long run, so I can understand why it was politically important to put it there. Starting it there helps ensure that future politicians can’t easily reroute it along I-5 and bypass a big chunk of the state’s residents. Once it goes to LA and SF the ridership will be much higher, I am sure.


    Andy Chow

    I don’t think Clem Tillier is any more technically qualified to speak on the subject than anyone else. There’s no example anywhere of trains with doors at two different levels to support two different floor/platform heights. Interior lift example is from Russia where ADA doesn’t apply (there may be something similar, but not exactly ADA).


    Captain America

    Only 1 million potential ridership in the central valley, according to the HSR Authority’s own numbers. Which is where we’re building the first 130 miles of track, for reasons I can’t explain.


    Andy Chow

    Then you should go to every city council up and down the line advocate for it. By the way, ask SFMTA and SF B of S for a path to get 100% accessibility for Muni Metro.



    I really had more hope in the process to sort out inefficiencies like this. One platform for all Caltrain stations should have been a precondition of integrating HSR with Caltrain’s existing right of way.


    Andy Chow

    I don’t want Caltrain to follow SEPTA, NJ Transit, or Muni Metro. That’s why I don’t support 50″ height platforms at all. There’s no recent case of successful transition from low platforms to full high platforms. They mostly ended up having hybrid boarding for decades. Examples: Muni Metro, Pittsburgh LRT, Buffalo LRT. They all got stuck in a situation where they built high platforms in key areas but cannot justify building high platforms in the rest of the system. If all these systems were upgraded in late 1990s, 2000s rather than 1970s, I can bet you that 100% they would’ve opted for low floor.

    LRT systems that pursued low floor technology will or has ended up to have a more complete accessibility and overall better experience (Portland, San Jose, San Diego, Toronto). All new LRT and streetcar system built after 2000 are all low floor, low platform.

    In the western US. All except 1 (eventually 3) commuter rail system use low platforms. The systems that are to be exceptions were or will be all newly built. Those systems will either have no freight trains running, or have gauntlet tracks at stations for freight trains.



    Caltrain is not nearly as large as SEPTA or NJ Transit. Surely we can accommodate the change for these few stations.



    Why can’t we just raise all Caltrain platforms to 50 inches?



    The hyperloop doesn’t have high-speed rail’s capacity


    Nicasio Nakamine

    What can we do about the chop shops? I pass them twice a day on my commute and it’s a damn shame. I see them being inspected/busted every once in a while, but they are always still there the next day.



    Good for them. No reason why the State of California should cancel everything else they are working on just in case they succeed, though.



    The original Caltrain plan was to also to continue using stairs and lifts during the transition period. There isn’t any way around that; you can’t snap your fingers and raise all the platforms overnight.


    Captain America

    Elon doesn’t have time to be CEO of 3 major companies.



    Well, it depends where you store the bikes. If you store them in the mid level section, you have true level boarding for everyone. It really depends on whether car builders can accommodate that or not.

    I do think that cyclists navigating internal stairs will not affect dwell times so long as bikes are spread around the train, so that we don’t have a situation where every cyclist is trying to get down the same stairs at once.



    Sounds like Elon doesn’t have too much faith in his engineers! Which makes sense – being able to take existing technologies and make them cheaper is completely unrelated to successfully deploying entirely new and undeveloped technologies. I’d be very wary about investing in Hyperloop if I were Elon as well.


    Captain America

    Hyperloop Transportion Technologies is going IPO later this year to raise funds for the test track. Elon’s engineers at SpaceX and Tesla were the inspiration for the design, but he is not managing it.



    This was discussed at the board workshop yesterday. While Europe is standardizing on low-platform boarding, they don’t have a requirement for level boarding for disabled passengers, so high-speed trains with high floors provide steps from the low platforms (and lifts for wheelchair users).



    Yes, it’s time for Caltrain to accept the reality that some passengers will stand. Before the used Metrolink cars went into service, the most crowded rush hour trains had over half of the passengers standing. That seems like too much given that the average Caltrain ride is between 30 and 60 minutes long. But Caltrain’s old goal of maximum 10% standees doesn’t seem realistic going forward.



    Kind of. If all platforms are being rebuilt to 50″, then we’ll have level boarding at the high level, and people will need to store bikes at the low level, and navigate the internal stairs, which could conceivably affect dwell time. The bottleneck might move from the outside stairs to the inside stars. So a good amount of design attention would need to go into minimizing the dwell time impacts.



    At the board workshop yesterday, the CAHSR rep said that Metrolink is looking to Northern California.



    Will you be funding the 10’s of billions of dollars worth of research, development, testing, and engineering costs? And that’s even before considering Elon’s orders-of-magnitude-too-low construction costs.

    How about just getting Elon – a billionaire – to throw in a billion of his own? According to his made-up cost projections, that’d cover 15% of the cost.



    Apparently you don’t understand that Transbay has more jobs within a 0.5 mile radius than within 0.5 miles of every other Caltrain station COMBINED.



    The fact that you’re touting SEPTA or NJ Transit as examples that Caltrain should strive to follow is evidence enough that your opinion is worthless.



    It makes perfect sense when you consider that stations can’t be adjusted (ie rebuilt) overnight. There needs to be a solution during the interim for dealing with two different boarding heights, and dual-height doors is the best way to address that issue.



    Wow, I find streetsblog’s reporting on transit issues to generally be fact-based and based on international best practices and experience (ie everything that mainstream reporting on transit issues isn’t) but this post is just flat-out sensationalist and misguided.

    Could streetsblog PLEASE reach out to Clem Tillier for a rebuttal, or, better yet, just repost his detailed and fact-based analysis of the issue? (everything that this post by Andrew Boone isn’t)


    Jamison Wieser

    Barcelona has about the simplest solution possible for curb extensions: modular concrete pads, with metal grates bridging slight height changes and to not effect drainage.



    You can’t make massive infrastructure decisions because you ‘suspect’ Caltrain would do something stupid and illogical when operating the extension. You need to do better than that.

    There would be no logic for not stopping a Caltrain at 4th & King if it’s also serving Transbay; it has to pass through the station anyway, and there’s clearly enough demand at the station to warrant it. There is already a bypass track planned at the new underground 4th & King, so stopped trains would not be blocking the mainline.



    It’s an off the shelf train with an extra set of doors; not exactly rocket science. Caltrain themselves said they got a “good response” from car builders when they were asked they to accommodate this.


    Harvey Kahler

    Not a separate terminal for AT&T Park but an intermediate station. I had trouble finding any plan for a Transbay terminal on the Caltrain site. Space would be limited for a two-track terminal, let alone for four or six tracks anywhere near the BART Embarcadero/Ferry Terminal on Market Street.

    2nd & Market would be a better Caltrain/CHSR terminal location for transfers to BART/Muni Montgomery station from their train load perspective as well as being a more central downtown location. A 2nd Street alignment would allow a new intermediate station at 3rd Street for AT&T Park.

    However, 2nd Street may be too narrow for more than two platform tracks. A larger terminal of 4-6 tracks and a tight 400′ radius curve would entail taking property; but this land could be redeveloped.

    I’ll probably be dead before CHSR begins running into San Francisco; but an extension to BART and Muni connections at Market Street would seem to be a more immediate priority. Costly electrification can be held off until then. The Pacheco connection will have to be built first somewhere between Fresno and San Jose to get into San Francisco.

    In the meantime, it always seemed to me that a high speed capable connection is needed most urgently between Sylmar and Bakersfield to begin through service, albeit at more conventional speeds (<110 mph), from San Diego through Los Angeles to Oakland and Sacramento and intermediate stops.


    Harvey Kahler

    I should add that 850′ platforms should be built now at a Transbay stub terminal for an eventual build-up to 10-car trains, even if this is a longer train than in current service. And don’t forget the locomotive.


    Dexter Wong

    But a bus yard must be reasonably close to the lines it serves. Kirkland serves lines in the north and west of the City, while Woods (in Dogpatch) serves south and east of the City. If a new yard is built in the Bayview, then Woods would have to take the place of Kirkland and the new yard would take the place of Woods. There would be a travel penalty for additional time spent getting from Woods to the assigned lines.


    Dexter Wong

    Bus stop bulbouts have been used on Polk Street for more than 40 years. I remember the first one between Jackson and Washington Streets. It seems your idea of auto paradise is a mall parking lot.


    Harvey Kahler

    BART does not have the same problem of dwell time for boarding and alighting as does California High Speed Rail and Caltrain (and Metra and other commuter roads) with a full car loading or unloading at the downtown terminal.

    Boarding ideally takes 3.8 minutes through the doors and up the steps for gallery cars; but that can be hindered by passengers searching for a seat. A train coming in with passengers in the reverse peak direction will add more time. Add 2-3 minutes each to move through the terminal throat and you may only get eight trains an hour with two platform tracks. That results in a nominal Caltrain capacity of about 11,000 passengers in a peak hour, assuming 10-car trains.

    CHSR trains may take a little less longer to board with fewer seats in each car than Caltrain, but carry-on and checked baggage could slow boarding. But if there is only hourly or half-hourly CHSR service, additional capacity could be exploited by Caltrain if equipment is compatible. That could allow another six Caltrains an hour, raising the hourly capacity to nearly 20,000 an hour, the equivalent of 9 expressway lanes in each direction compared to one track each way.

    In reality, a more reliable schedule may be for only ten Caltrains an hour – that’s still as much as 14,000 commuters an hour sharing CHRS platforms. By comparison, a Chicago Transit Authority subway only can handle 12,000 passengers and hour reliably with 8-car trains on 3-minute headways.

    Another problem is that you can have two streams of passengers moving in opposite directions on the platform hindered by those who came earlier and are waiting to board; so platforms need to be wide enough. One way around a limited platform width is to have additional stairs or escalators along the platform leading to a mezzanine level or the street.


    david vartanoff

    I do not support mandating a smart phone, but combined w/ a contactless card (Ventra/Clipper etc, and I am adamant that Metra within CTA’s current service boundaries must honor CTA fares for travel) fare collection should be easy. Most of Metra can emulate Caltrain which has TVMs and card readers on all platforms. POP chjeckers read your Clipper card to see if you tagged before boarding, and remind you to tag out on alighting. Asto MED the irony is that the Illinois Central was a “bleeding edge” adopter of mag stripe farecards in the 1960s, but Metra scrapped the system returning to 19th century tickets sold by humans at stations.
    One of the side benefits of employer encouragement of transit use (as well as bulk pass purchase by universities and others) is that a rising percentage of riders are regular pass users which means the single ticket sales are a declining fraction of the riders. This in turn gives the agency cash up front in large deposits and lessens the importance of catching every single scoflaw rider.



    construction costs alone were between $200,000 and $500,000?

    Plus something like this:

    Sure it is a bit more complex than it seems so lets multiply this by 10, that makes about $30.000


    Harvey Kahler

    I think the 25″ high from top of rail platform is considered mid-level and it must be farther from the center of the track than an 8″ TOR platform. At some older stations, the platform can be below the rail after a number of track lifts with ballasting. Even where the floor and platform height match, a bridge plate is needed across the gap for wheelchairs.



    So using Europe’s most popular HSR train is “risky”, but having Caltrain design a special snowflake train isn’t? Well okay then…


    Harvey Kahler

    Modern fare payment technology isn’t always appropriate. Even as Metra is about to roll out smart-phone ticketing, this may slow down on-board fare inspections on an open system for lines other than the Electric District. Needing a smart phone will be an economic deterrent for people with little or no income who may still need to take the train, given the much higher cost of a taxi or downtown parking. Automated fare vending of flash-type tickets is needed at all Metra stations and purchased before boarding.



    During the transition period, the boarding situation proposed above would not be any worse than the current situation.

    This is a multi-billion dollar, multi-decade project that results in more stairs, and more lifts. Surely we can do a lot better than that.


    Captain America

    Cancel this boondoggle and build the Hyperloop up I-5.


    Harvey Kahler

    A veteran bike rider can board about as quickly as someone toting a large roll-on case on Metra which is similar to Caltrain. What takes time are the wheelchair lifts; and the need is irregular on Metra. This will mitigate against faster schedules on closer headways.



    Good question, @BBnet3000:disqus. It is actually much easier to facilitate drainage through parklet design than bus bulb design, as you don’t have to alter the cross slope of the road. Instead, you just build the platform around it, allowing for drainage underneath the parklet. The stoplet would function similarly. You can check out design guidelines in the SF Planning Department’s parklet manual on pages 35-36:


    Harvey Kahler

    Amtrak Surfliners, Capitols, and San Joaquins, Caltrain, and Metrolink have low platform boarding cars; so the boarding compatibility issue goes beyond the San Francisco Peninsula.

    Seats are the normal expectation for suburban service capacity and avoidance of standees. With more doors for faster boarding, you have fewer seats and are hauling doors instead of passengers. Does it help Metrolink and Amtrak to have two double doors on each side of the car? Is the faster boarding due more to queuing on the lower level and a short step off?

    With flash type tickets, the gallery type car offers excellent on-board ticket inspection. Unfortunately, Metra in Chicago has not taken advantage of automated ticket vending or even have agents at all stations, obliging crews to handle cash fares only the old-fashioned way.



    1. Wrong. The FRA hasn’t even released the the rules yet for true HSR (186+ mph) since it doesn’t exist here.

    2. The Eurostar just purchased new train-sets from Siemen’s Velaro family. And guess what, those have 48″ boarding height.

    3. Again, the TGV duplex is not the same train-set as the one which set the speed record. So no, it does NOT go much faster. You need the AGV which has 45″ boarding.


    Andy Chow

    No. I suspect that many trains will skip 4th & King.

    Baseball games create massive demands. If there’s no terminal or turn back track at 4th and King, trains would be blocking the main line while waiting for passengers to board. There needs to be more capacity and flexability as well at 4th & King



    “This may be true for commuter rail systems that always have high platforms and use bi-level cars, that these are real issues when it comes to Caltrain where all stations are low platforms.”

    That makes zero sense. Almost every commuter rail agency in the US has high and low platforms, such as MBTA, NJ Transit etc. At high platforms, wheelchairs roll on. At low, stairs pop out and a conductor brings around a mini lift. It works exactly like MUNI. Boarding from the low level makes zero sense.


    Nicholas Littlejohn

    This makes no sense. We need to compromise or adjust stations, I feel.



    How big of an issue is drainage? There are bus bulbs that still allow waterflow in the existing gutter space:,-73.998811,3a,43.4y,232.3h,81.15t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sagUx5zDyqWJ07jV8aLQzlg!2e0!6m1!1e1


    Mesozoic Polk

    On the one hand, the Mesozoic Polk Neighborhood Association vigorously opposes any so-called “improvements” that make streets more pleasant or encourage anything other than parked cars to linger by the sidewalk.

    On the other hand, if we absolutely must tolerate this bafflingly popular and resilient parklet program, at least having parklets double up with bus stops would preserve more curb space for its rightful purpose: car storage. (For reference, see Bob Gunderson’s excellent guide to street taxonomy, which explains how street parking is a state of nature.)

    To be honest, we are torn on this one.



    We need a solution that improves things over the longer term, and does not make things any worse during the transition period.

    During the transition period, the boarding situation proposed above would not be any worse than the current situation. Once the platforms are rebuilt we would have level boarding, which would be a major improvement over the current situation.