Caltrain and High Speed Rail

What is your view on Caltrain’s electrification plans, High Speed Rail and grade separations?

The biggest potential benefit of Caltrain electrification is allowing a significant increase in passenger capacity – the performance advantages (acceleration, deceleration) over the existing diesel-powered trains allows trains to be scheduled more closely together.

Definition: An at-grade crossing is where a street crosses directly over the tracks (the grade), rather than having an overpass or underpass. Consequently traffic on the cross street must be stopped whenever a train passes. Palo Alto has at-grade crossings at Alma (actually Palo Alto Avenue), Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive, and Charleston Road.

Definition: Grade separation involves converting an at-grade crossing to one where the traffic passes over or under the tracks and thus eliminating interaction with the passage of trains. Palo Alto has grade separation at University Avenue, Embarcadero Road, and Oregon Expressway.

At-grade crossings—in Palo Alto and other cities—limit how much the Caltrain schedule can be increased because they create congestion on the crossing streets – not just from when the crossing gates are closed but from the decrease in efficiency of the adjacent intersections resulting from the de-synchronization of the traffic lights

Consequently, I view the issues of electrification and grade-separation as intimately intertwined

The current status of High Speed Rail is a blended system, but considerations seem to be inactive for the time being. However, planning and implementation of grade-separation should take into account the possibility of such a blended system.

The role of HSR for this region seems to have evolved into predominantly serving commuters, that is, making it easier for commuters from the Central Valley and East Bay (depending on route) to reach jobs in SF and the Peninsula. I think that encouraging more suburbanization of the Central Valley is bad policy, both for this region and California. Given HSR's long history of bad planning, bad management and misleading presentations, it is important that Council monitor developments and be prepared to respond.

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