Friday Round-up: Caltrain Orders More EMUs, BART Pilots Mobile Ticketing

Plus the San Francisco Transit Riders celebrate and demand more red-carpet lanes

Caltrain is purchasing more cars for its electric fleet. Here's a view of the car type, seen here running in  Effretikon, Switzerland. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Caltrain is purchasing more cars for its electric fleet. Here's a view of the car type, seen here running in Effretikon, Switzerland. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Caltrain to Get More Cars for Coming Electrified Service:

The Peninsula’s commuter railroad is busy putting up poles and stringing wire for its electrified service, due to be operational in 2022 (see photo below).

Photo: Scott Yarbrough
Photo: Scott Yarbrough

But those poles and wires won’t mean much if they don’t have enough electric trains to exploit it. That’s why the agency has announced it is purchasing additional rolling stock for its electric fleet.

From a Caltrain statement:

Funding from the California State Transportation Agency’s (CalSTA’s) Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP) allows Caltrain to expand its electric fleet from 16 six-car trainsets to 19 seven-car trainsets. Caltrain’s contract option with Stadler, the company building the electric cars, allows for additional Electric Multiple Units (EMUs) to be purchased at the original price totaling $174.6 million, provided the purchase is made by the end of 2018.

The Caltrain Business Plan sees weekday ridership going up to over 240,000 per day by 2040, up from the current weekday ridership of 65,000. The additional cars are supposed to help meet that demand. In addition, some of the money will go to on-board WiFi and better bicycle facilities.  What remains an open question is the configuration of the bike cars. “The interior configuration of the trains will be informed by a public process in 2019,” writes Caltrain’s communications staff. “That discussion will include an assessment of design alternatives to address bike security concerns and an exploration of policy considerations related to onboard and wayside bicycle storage, and how to balance the needs of bicyclists against the need for capacity improvements for all riders.”

BART Tests Mobile Ticketing with Airport App:


The future of transit ticketing is, well, ticket-less. BART has announced a pilot program to try out charging fares using a mobile app. First step–an app and program that offers discounts for using BART for getting to the airport.

From the BART release:

The BART to Airport app is fast, secure, and convenient. Riders just download the free app, register a debit card, credit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay or PayPal account into the account, then purchase a ticket. When they are ready to take BART, they activate the ticket and show it to a Station Agent as they enter and exit stations.  The app calculates the discounted fare for you and the one mobile ticket is all you need for the entire group.

“With the BART to Airport app, group travelers won’t have to worry about finding and paying for expensive parking at crowded airport lots or sifting through the chaotic curbside pick-ups and drop-offs at airport terminals,” said BART Board President Robert Raburn in a prepared statement.  “We want to test how mobile ticketing could work at BART while also making group travel on transit more affordable.”

The app allows groups of two or more people to get a 25 percent discount, if they buy the airport fares together. That’s a common way for rail and transit services to remain competitive against TNCs and conventional taxis that don’t charge on a per-rider basis. With this app, BART is joining MuniCaltrain, SMARTVTA and ?others? in the app-based, ticketless realm.  Try the BART app yourself at Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Now, if only the agencies could figure out how to rationalize fare structures across agencies.

San Francisco Transit Riders Celebrate and Reflect on Year’s Advocacy

Transit Riders ED Rachel Hyden, NAME?? and Chairperson Thea Selby during last night's red-carpet lane celebration. Photo: SFTR
Rachel Hyden, SFTR Executive Director; Roger Marenco, Transport Workers Union Local 250-A President; Thea Selby, SFTR Board Chair, during last night’s red-carpet-lane celebration. Photo: SFTR

The group that helped bring you all door-boarding and the 22-day Muni challenge vowed to get red-carpet, transit-only lanes rolled out throughout San Francisco, at its annual holiday party last night (see the above pic, with SFTR advocates standing on the red carpet). The party was an opportunity to “celebrate a year of successes–getting the rider’s voice heard, influencing transit projects, and shining the media spotlight on public transit’s strengths and weaknesses,” wrote the Transit Riders in a statement about the event.

“Our successes of the past year include getting the Excelsior Safety Project back on track, keeping the 27 Bryant improvements moving forward, and of course getting the two-hour transfer!” said Hyden. She also laid out the group’s vision for the next phase: a rider’s rapid network. “We want to tie together every district in the city with a network of rapid lines, so riders can get from one end of the line to the other in 30 minutes or less, by the year 2030.”

They held the party at their usual haunt, The Mariposa Hunters Point Yacht Club in Mission Bay. A hearty congrats to one of the fastest growing advocacy groups on another year of hard-won progress.

  • crazyvag

    Kudos to Caltrain. I do recall that UP insists that its track remains “unelectrified”, and since Caltrain only has a track down to Tamien, that’s why there’ll be no electrification south of there. There are some options:
    1) Extend Capitol Corridor down to Gilroy. Customers transfer at San Jose to Caltrain
    2) Once HSR has electrified tracks down to Gilroy, use those tracks to service those stations

  • Jeffrey Baker

    The best part of this article is that tiny village of Effretikon, Switzerland, with a population roughly as large as that of Emeryville, enjoys 20-train-per-hour electric train service. We’ll get the electric part four years from now, but we’ll never get the 20 trains per hour.

    Bahnhof Effritkon, though it has far better train service than any station in America and more than Caltrain has ever contemplated has a tidy three-platform station with absolutely no mezzanines, parking garages, or aerial structures of any kind and cost probably 1% of what Caltrain is going to spend on a station like So. San Francisco, where 63 million dollars and four years of construction will get us almost nothing.

    I’m bitter now, but thanks for the nice photo.

  • SuperQ

    Another good comparison would be South SF and Winterthur. Winterthur has 100k people vs 65k in South SF. But the South SF population density is 70% higher.

    Winterthur has over 30 trains per hour, on a Saturday morning. Ranging from local stop S-Bahn to express high speed service to other countries.

    A lower population density suburb of Zurich has a 9-platform rail station compared to South SF.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Every podunk village in Switzerland has better train service than most Americans can imagine. Zurich, with a smaller population than Oakland, has a 55-track main station. The main station in San Francisco, our region’s principle city, will have two tracks, when it is completed 20 years in the future.

  • If it is ever built. Let’s face it, we’ve gone past the point of no return when it comes to transit. Some of it has to do with all the ridiculous hurdles a project requires in this state, and bloated costs. It’s also the pervasive American mentality of not embracing transit investment. Anything we try to do now is playing catch up for infrastructure we needed decades ago.

  • Affen_Theater

    @crazyvag: the HSRA’s 2018 business plan includes electrifying from SJ down to Gilroy for the benefit of both electrified Caltrain and future HSR. If they can’t cut a deal with UP, then they’ll have to parallel them or work something else out. Read more about it from the latest Caltrain/HSR LPMG presentations here:

    And also the latest documents posted for the SJ-Merced section here:

    And SF-SJ section here:

  • LazyReader

    They cant run 20 trains per hour even with the trains using independent propulsion (Diesel). Electricity sounds all green-like, but the sad fact that two-thirds of
    the energy used to generate electricity is lost between the generator
    and the end user. It’s simply more efficient to use diesel-electric hybrids than a multibillion dollar electrification scheme.

  • LazyReader

    What’s really going on here is Jerry Brown wants his legacy high-speed train, and that train will run on electricity. The state doesn’t have enough money to make the portion from San Jose to San Francisco into a high-speed route, but it still needs electricity to run to San Francisco at conventional speeds. The feds don’t have more money for high-speed rail, so the state asked for the money instead to implement Caltrain electrification (which would eventually be used by the semi-high-speed trains) as a way of getting around that limit. An audit of the high speed rail authority indicates the project will cost more than 2010 assessments. Recent Federal Railroad Administration prediction that the short segment of high-speed rail that is currently under construction will cost around 50 percent more than claimed. Based on that, the final cost of a true high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco will be around $150 billion; Assuming cronyism and contractor corruption doesn’t rear it’s head……which in California..Of course that’ll never happen. Anywho; this project is reaching like four or five times the amount promised to voters in 2008 and about ten times the cost projections in the late 1990s. In 1996 the project was supposed to cost 10 billion.

    This just illustrates the basic problem with the politically aligned projects. Politicians get sold on an idea when the cost appears reasonable, then stick to it no matter how much the costs escalate. That’s how well intentioned programs become cesspools of waste and corruption. Just a few years ago Caltrains was the agency teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    LazyThinker, the average system efficiency for railroad diesel-electric rigs is less than 24%. 33% for all-electric would be a great improvement, and in fact we don’t care how much is lost in transmission and conversion when the prime source is solar.

  • John French

    Electric lines can run *more* tph than diesel. EMUs have more powered axles than locomotive-hauled trains, and acceleration is primarily traction-limited, so EMUs can accelerate more quickly, which makes a big difference on a passenger line with many stops.

  • p_chazz

    Hardly an apt comparison. Switzerland gets lots of ice and snow, which the Bay Area does not. Europe generally is more compact and has higher population density than the United States so investment in rail makes more sense than the US which is sprawled out all over the place. Nice try though.

  • Adding to @Affen_Theater:disqus’s comment. On the matter of the Capitol Corridor, your wish has been granted (and then some)

    Capitol Corridor received a CalSTA grant earlier this year to start service all the way down to Salinas. The grant covered the first two trains and layover facilities for up to six trains overnight. It was pretty far along, Caltrans and UP had already worked out a couple required modifications and this was the chunk to really get them over the hump.

    Capitol Corridor will continue using the non-electrified UP track for the foreseeable future while Caltrain (and eventually HSR) get moved to a new electrified trackway.

  • wave9x

    Humans not bikes! Please do not build a train system for hauling bikes around. A bike takes the place of FIVE human riders. People are sitting on the floor and crammed into the aisles today – we need WAY more seats! Bike lockers and bike services at stations are a far better approach.


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