Rail Update: HSR and Caltrain

HSR issues $600 million in bonds, plus Caltrain progress report on electrification

A screen capture from Caltrain's new PSA on electrification. Image: Caltrain
A screen capture from Caltrain's new PSA on electrification. Image: Caltrain

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The California High-speed Rail Authority sold $600 million in bonds for the project on Tuesday, as it continues to construct its 119-mile spine in the Central Valley.

From the Associated Press story:

California sold $600 million in bonds Tuesday to help pay for its high-speed rail project even as lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledge challenges to completing the line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The bond money is a key source of funding for the troubled project, which has been beset by cost overruns and delays. Voters approved $10 billion in bonds in 2008 and the state routinely sells them. The entire project is estimated to cost $77 billion.

The Miami Herald reports that State Treasurer Fiona Ma said that Wells Fargo and Jefferies, LLC, bought the bonds.

Caltrain Electrification

Closer to home, the $1.9 billion Caltrain electrification project continues planting poles and stringing wire. “This month, crews started foundation installation in San Jose and continued pole installation from South San Francisco to San Mateo. Five traction power facilities are currently under construction in South San Francisco, San Jose, Redwood City and San Mateo,” wrote Caltrain in an official release.

The agency also writes that regular weekend train service to all San Francisco stations will be restored after April 1, 2019, with the following exceptions:

  • Saturday, April 20 and Sunday, April 21
  • Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5
  • Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2
  • Saturday, June 22 and Sunday, June 23
A picture of
A picture one of the new trains on order from Stadler. Photo: Stadler US

The advocacy group “Bikes on Board” is still pressuring Caltrain to design the interiors of the above-pictured trains to carry more bikes–and allow them to be stored in view of their owners, to avoid theft. Caltrain has decided to hold a workshop to reevaluate reconfiguration options at 5:40 pm, Wednesday, April 17, at 1250 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos.

As previously reported, Bikes on Board is not happy with the configuration choices currently on the table. For more on that, check out its letter to the Caltrain Board.

And, last but not least, just in case you’re the type of person who thinks it’d be a good idea to try zip-lining on those snazzy new wires over the tracks, Caltrain has put out this cute public service announcement (the lead image is a still from the PSA). It’s kind of hard to comprehend how someone would end up bumping into overhead power lines on Caltrain (even if looking at ones phone) any more easily than they would high-tension lines in other places, but never hurts to get the word out.

And please don’t fly a kite near Caltrain.

  • p_chazz

    Considering how Wells has been in the doghouse over its many scandals, they are probably trying to buy some goodwill by investing in CHSR, the same way Bank of America came to the rescue of the Golden Gate Bridge by buying bonds at height of the Great Depression.

  • relentlesscactus

    That video is lame.

  • LazyReader

    77 Billion and growing. The fact is the 119 mile spine in the central valley has gone up in price from 6 billion dollars to 10.6 billion dollars; if they cant control costs building flat rail in the middle of nowhere, what prices will show up when plans progress into the city. It’s not a spine, it’s a pity project. The cheapest and simplest project they could do for the money and resources at hand. Phase one completion date keep getting further behind with 2030+ as the new milestone. A high-speed rail between the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay area makes no economic sense. Flights between these two metro areas take about one hour’s flight time. And based on numbers the amount of people going to and from the two metros is insignificant enough. Transportation technologies are only an economic game changer if they handle issues of convenience, cost or speed or all three. A 200-mph train doesn’t do much good if it is inconvenient and costly. A 500-mph airplane is far more economical because it requires less infrastructure, while a 60-mph car is both economical and convenient. New technologies will compete only if they are more economical and either faster or more convenient. Trains meet none of these criteria.

    Cars are more convenient day to day, getting more efficient in terms of energy usage. Planes are faster and Buses are vastly cheaper buy and operate (and liquidate if the company goes belly up). And no one can anticipate what future, but one things for certain is that working from home, virtual offices and online student courses will vastly slice into the potential riders for this project. And evolving transportation technologies may possibly usurp HSR service by the time the cities finally connect. Everything from driverless cars/buses, VTOL aircraft, dynalifters, hyperloop, maglev sleds

    Even worse the project even if completed is doomed to fail. In addition to the continuous cost overruns and schedule delays, by law, the State will not operate the train, nor subsidize its operation. Once built, the State will seek an operator of the completed project, through competitive bidding. State law says that the system must operate without taxpayer subsidies and without subsidies the ticket prices will render the system noncompetitive to buses and planes. Driving or flying from a multitude of airports can be done at virtually any time of day, but the inflexibility of how many train departure times would be available from a limited number of trains would impact the convenience factor offered by cars and planes and thus also adversely affect train ridership.

  • crazyvag

    Flights have a significant CO2 emission cost that is most cost effectively countered by rail. Those costs – sadly – aren’t included in the tickets, which leaves the full cost of flying to your taxes.

  • LazyReader

    Because the airlines are good about filling almost every seat, they use about 2,500 BTUs per passenger mile, compared with 2,200 on Amtrak. Moreover, Amtrak’s energy efficiency is improving at 2.3% per year while the airlines are improving at 3.3% per year, so the airlines are catching up. Meanwhile, cars use about 3,000 BTUs per passenger mile and mass transit uses 3,300. The only really energy efficient form of travel is intercity buses that probably use about 1,000 BTUs per passenger mile. Air travel is for those with time of the essence. Buses are not only cheaper but their methodology for filling seats makes them more energy efficient. And the next generation of jet engines from GE, Rolls Royce and Siemens will offer greater fuel efficiency. Hybridization and electrification of cars, buses and passenger vans will render the eco benefits of high speed rail mute.

    Second Europe’s high speed rail systems haven’t taken drivers off the road NOR has it curbed the growing utilization of air travel, despite carbon taxes. Where data exists, air travel in Europe is growing. Not to mention the construction of the HSR will emit so much CO2, not to mention it’s near constant upkeep it’ll be decades before it co2 savings ever amortize; never mind how long it will take to finish the project. As a result, any large investment in fixed infrastructure over that length of time that long is extremely risky. It would be fine if it were available now, but it’s a decade late and will be another decade before any major city sees it’s first train stop.

  • Bill Hutchison

    Anything but rail, right?

  • KJ

    At least six stations are missing from the map in in the video, including Broadway, Hayward Park, Hillsdale, etc.