After several months of blustering and delays, the Federal Transit Administration has finally signed off on the full $647 million in federal funding needed to electrify California’s Caltrain commuter rail system. The move comes several anxious months after the new administration indicated it would scuttle previous funding agreements for public transportation projects across the country as a way to punish cities that have so thoroughly rejected the new president. The funding was originally completely left out of the earliest budget proposals announced by the White House, but hope returned two weeks ago when a preliminary congressional plan seemed to walk back the de-funding talk. That budget contained partial funding commitments for urban transportation initiatives, including $100 million for Caltrain electrification. After weeks of outspoken criticism from California’s political leadership and pleas from transportation activists, news this week of full funding for the project was widely seen as a welcome political victory. In a statement celebrating the new funding agreement, Jim Hartnett, CEO of Caltrain touted the economic development potential for the project, Mass Transit reports, saying that Caltrain Electrification will ease congestion in “one of the country’s most economically productive regions” while also “creating almost 10,000 American jobs in the process.” Caltrain, a regional commuter rail network that serves the Bay Area and its environs, is in the midst of converting its diesel-powered train fleet into an electrically-powered one. Train electrification produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than diesel power—especially when the energy used to power the trains is generated through renewable means—and has also been recently touted as a vehicle for so-called solutionary rail reforms. Solutionary rail approaches combine sustainable electrical grid modernization initiatives with high-speed rail expansion to multiply the environmental benefit of train networks. Although electrified railways are the norm in countries with advanced train networks, only about 1% of rails in the US are electrified. In California, the move is a necessary precursor to the state’s forthcoming High Speed Rail network. Electrification will require that Caltrain purchase new locomotives and the organization is currently soliciting input on forthcoming train graphics. Caltrain is currently working on the designs for the electrification improvements and is expected to begin construction sometime this year, with a project completion deadline of 2020 or 2021. For more information on the Peninsula Corridor Electrification project, see the Caltrain website.
Posts tagged with "Caltrain":
Against the odds of the current political moment, California is moving ahead with plans to electrify its Caltrain commuter train system in the northern part of the state. The organization in charge of the upgrades needs help choosing graphics for the new fleet of electric trains. Caltrain, a regional commuter rail serving San Francisco and its environs, has seen daily ridership double to 65,000 since 2005, according to a project website. The transit authority is aiming to transition from its current fleet of diesel-fueled locomotives to next-generation Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains that not only run on electric power, but are propelled along their length, instead of pushed or pulled like traditional trains. The all-car propulsion technology has been shown to shorten overall trip times, a byproduct of the smoother acceleration and stopping capabilities possible when each car is independently-propelled. The electrification of the Caltrain system will also help lay the groundwork for California’s beleaguered and over-budget high-speed rail line (HSR). The multi-phase HSR network is still on-track for the 2025 debut of the Silicon Valley to the Central Valley line and will also run on electricity. Converting the Caltrain system to electrical power now is a basic requirement for the high-speed rail line’s later operation. Like the HSR itself, the effort to electrify the Caltrain system, however, will not be cheap: Cost estimates for the upgrades are currently estimated to bet roughly $1.3 billion, a large chunk of which will need to come from the now-recalcitrant federal government. President Trump’s budget proposal left funding for the improvements unmet, along with several other major mass transit infrastructure projects across the country like Los Angeles’s Purple Line and New York City’s 2nd Avenue Subway extensions. A recently-released congressional draft budget proposal, however, allocated some $100 million toward the electrification project (and partial funding for the other projects, as well). Either way, Caltrain is moving ahead with purchasing 96 new train cars that would be configured into 16 six-car trainsets. The authority also has the option to purchase an additional 96 cars to be configured variously at a later date, according to a bulletin issued by Caltrain. The proposed graphics schemes envision four potential options for the fleet, all of which employ Caltrain’s signature red, white, and dark gray color schemes. The schemes, which feature a variety of striping and color blocking patterns, can be voted on at the Caltrain website. The train operator will spend the next year and a half collecting design feedback and—funding permitting—expects to debut the new trains in between 2019 and 2021.