Direct LA-SF train

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Tom Booth, Nov 29, 2019.

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  1. Nov 29, 2019 #1

    Tom Booth

    Tom Booth

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    Is there a reason that a LA northbound Amtrak cannot go straight into the SP(Caltrains) depot in San Francisco? Maybe even split the train at San Jose between SF bound and East Bay and points north. And do the reverse on the southbound to LA. Does Caltrains (which provides service from SJ-SF) stop Amtrak from doing this? The old SP used to provide service into SF to their depot on 4th and Townsend Sts. And I would guess that direct SF-LA service would entice lots of passengers. Direct service is one of the primary reasons for the high speed rail project which is a long way off. Reviving the old route would be far cheaper and provide direct service in the interim before the completion (As my Uncle Bob used to say "if you live long enough") of the high speed route.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2019
  2. Nov 29, 2019 #2

    jiml

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    After recently visiting San Francisco for the first time (for more than changing planes) I made a point of checking out Caltrain's 4th. Street terminal and thought of exactly the same thing. I did wonder if the circuitous route had anything to do with it, but it did seem like a lost opportunity. They plan to extend (restore) the trackage to the Embarcadero at some point in the very near future as well.
     
  3. Nov 29, 2019 #3

    cirdan

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    Now if they would build a full rail tunnel under the bay, maybe in connection with the high speed project, then all Amtrak trains that currently go through Emeryville could be rerouted through San Francisco.

    But we can keep on dreaming.
     
  4. Nov 29, 2019 #4

    TiBike

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    One of the options for the Coast Daylight if it ever comes to be is to go to San Francisco. It would be a daily extension of a Surfliner.

    Splitting the train would guarantee a delay, and in any event Caltrans is moving toward semi-permanent sets. Where it terminates – San Jose, Oakland or San Francisco, or maybe even Sacramento – depends mostly on maintenance. If it can be timed with Caltrain and/or the Capitol Corridor at San Jose, it'll serve its purpose. Which is mostly about providing service to the Central Coast region. Hauling people between SF and LA won't be a mainstream transportation proposition until the high speed rail project is built, which will happen about the same time that Elon Musk's great-grand daughter perfects a teleporter and we can beam ourselves to LA.:)
     
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  5. Nov 29, 2019 #5

    Skyline

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    I'm not riding that teleporter, nor am I taking a shuttle to Mars.
     
  6. Dec 1, 2019 #6

    rickycourtney

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    There's no technical reason why there isn't a direct service into San Francisco, just logistical reasons. The SF station is a dead end, so you're stuck having to cut the trainset in San Jose, or do a wye move (like the Silver Star to Tampa). In the end, it's a lot of extra "moving parts" and delays just to avoid a <30 minute bus ride.

    The most serious plan to run a direct LA-SF train was the Coast Daylight which would look and feel like one of the Amtrak California services (no sleepers, diner, or SSL). UP would require improvements to the tracks before adding another train to the coast route.

    The plans for Coast Daylight was shelved when funding was approved for CAHSR (which was proposed to operate direct LA-SF service), along with a lot of other plans. No matter how unrealistic it seems now, the plan was to have direct LA-SF service within a few years, so investing in any improvements in Central California or the Central Coast seemed redundant.

    Also, as was said earlier, other than the diehard railfans, I also don’t believe there’s a big unserved market for a 11.5 hour “slow speed rail” between LA and SF. Now, that said, people on the Central Coast deserve better rail service (and they wouldn’t get help from CAHSR) and they would benefit from the Coast Daylight.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
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  7. Dec 2, 2019 #7

    Anderson

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    This. Scratch-pad math is that there's a decent amount of traffic with O/D between San Jose and Goleta, exclusive. It's like 170k pax, but some chunk of that is to/from the buses at SLO...so we're not talking trivial traffic numbers. I'd have to dig into some of the other traffic data, but while there's not necessarily an untapped LAX-Bay Area market on the Coast Line, there's a whole tangled slew of intermediate markets that either aren't served well (e.g. 1x/day) or get skipped by the through train (King City, Gilroy, etc.). TBH, there's a decent case in my mind for a 2-4x daily through service (plus one "stub" train terminating at SLO from each side) on the route, especially if you can trim the runtime at all (and don't forget how much padding there is at the LA end of things for the SB Starlight).
     
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  8. Dec 2, 2019 #8

    cirdan

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    I never really understood why CAHSR was routed through the Central Valley rather than along / closer to the more populated coastline.

    Right now we don't know if CAHSR will ever be fully built out or just end up as a stub segment that is essentially a glorified commuter service, that will operate as such until people forget that it was ever supposed to be more.

    If some years later the topic comes up again and planning starts from scratch, maybe they will go for HSR on the coastal route.

    But until we get there, I do think there is a market for a slow speed service. It doesn't have to be a huge market or take a huge market share. There has to be enough to fill a train, which is not really the same thing. In terms of market share between Texas and Chicago for example, I don't think Amtrak is even a blip on the radar. But it's still enough people to justify a train, especially when you start looking at the intermediate stations.
     
  9. Dec 2, 2019 #9

    seat38a

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    Oh I don't know, could it be something called the Coast Range Mountains on the the whole coast of California and the Central Valley being flat??? It's California Social Studies 101 from 4th grade. Define "more populated coastline"? The majority of the population are in the Bay Area or in SoCal in the LA Basin. I just drove up and down 101 to Monterey and back from Orange County. I'd like to know where along the coast is populated with vast number of people outside of LA Basin and the Bay Area/Silicon Valley? Even with the current HSR routing, we can't come up with money to do 2 tunnels through Tehapachi and Diablo Range, good luck tunneling through the Coast Range.
     
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  10. Dec 2, 2019 #10

    rickycourtney

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    As a Central California resident... let me clear up some of the misconceptions here.
    The Central California cities that would be served by High Speed Rail are home to 1.4 million people. The Central Coast towns served by the Coast Starlight are home to half a million people. That's triple the population. As seat38a point out, both areas have a similar geographic challenge in the form of a formidable mountain range, but the Central Valley is flatter and has more room to the maneuver the alignment.
    I don't think many people who don't live in the Valley realize how far along construction is. We have giant concrete viaducts that now tower over rivers and roads. Crews are putting the final touches on a tunnel under Highway 180. Currently, crews are cutting a huge trench through Downtown Fresno. I happen to work next to the tunnel and trench and get a front row seat to the daily progress being made.

    Abandoning all of that investment in infrastructure to attempt a coastal route would be crazy, even by the standard of California state government!

    I don't have a crystal ball that tells me what exactly will become of all of that infrastructure, but I believe that true 220 mph high speed rail is still a long way away. I think in the short-term, we will see a "higher speed rail" San Joaquin. Specifically, the Charger diesel locomotives pulling the new Siemens trainsets at 125 mph.
    I think there's widespread agreement that there is a need for better rail service on the Central Coast, but like all of Amtrak's long-distance services, people traveling end-to-end will be a niche service. People could ride between LA and SF, but what is more likely is that passengers will travel between LA and the Central Coast or between SF and the Central Coast. The same is true for the San Joaquin trains, just 4,000 people per year make the 9.5 hour trip between LA and SF. That trip would be 2.5 hours faster than the Coast route.

    But, the plans for additional Coast service could be made easier in the next 5 years... California will have two unused Comet car trainsets looking for a home. They would be the perfect starter equipment for that service. If the local governments and lawmakers fight for money, they could start chipping away at the 12 hour travel time by investing in track improvements... just like what has been done on California's other three state-supported routes.
     
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  11. Dec 2, 2019 #11

    leemell

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    There will be no diesels on the Merced to Bakersfield segment of HSR. The Bond funding clearly prohibits it. Besides, Track and Systems RFP will likely go out this month and trainsets RFP probably next month. First test runs in about 18-20 months.
     
  12. Dec 2, 2019 #12

    jis

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    Just out of curiosity, does the bond issue prohibit dual mode that operates electric on the segment in question? Is a dead diesel engine in tow prohibited? o_O
     
  13. Dec 2, 2019 #13

    seat38a

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    Our politicians, including the governor has been very good at ignoring the will of the voters. Whatever was on the proposition, will just be ignored or reinterpreted. Case in point, the proposition also said that a system must be built between LA and SF, but by ONLY building from Bakersfield to Merced but still keeping the option to SoCal and Bay Area "Open," they didn't violate the law. I'm sure if they keep the option "OPEN" to electrify in the future, then it satisfies the law.

    Part of the text:
     
  14. Dec 2, 2019 #14

    jis

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    Someone was out of their mind if they really believed that they'd get an HSR connecting those three points for $10 billion. And if one believes in reality instead of tooth fairies, clearly the construction of the entire project would have to be staged with some segment built first. So this whole thing about not building everything at once contradicting the law belongs to those who live in la la land. Just IMHO of course, and I am entitled to one ;)
     
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  15. Dec 2, 2019 #15

    seat38a

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    There was never any doubt that the bond money wasn't enough. Our past 2 governors just thought Federal funds along with some hope and change(Remember hope and change?) would be enough to get it built. They just weren't expecting the Democrats to loose both the house and senate and then also the presidency to the GOP. Obama's $8 billion shared among many states didn't go very far and then all political capital was used up for TARP and Obamacare.
     
  16. Dec 2, 2019 #16

    jis

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    I think they were crazy even to think that they were going to get the necessary $20-$30 billion in four years or even 8 years even with the friendliest of Democrat in office, for just one line. If that was at all within the realm of possibilities NEC backlog would have been non-existent by now. ;)
     
  17. Dec 2, 2019 #17

    rickycourtney

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    Huh, interesting. Hadn't heard that. Would enjoy reading the bond funding rules.

    I am only familiar with Section 2704.09 of the California Streets and Highways Code that calls for "The high-speed train system to be constructed pursuant to this chapter shall be designed to achieve the following characteristics: (a) Electric trains that are capable of sustained maximum revenue operating speeds of no less than 200 miles per hour."

    I have no doubt that the infrastructure that's being constructed here in the Valley is was *designed* for electric trains that are capable of sustained maximum revenue operating speeds of no less than 200 miles per hour. That said, it seems like there's enough wiggle room that if diesel hauled equipment needed to be used, it could be used.

    I will also say, having the first test runs in 18-20 months (June/August 2021) seems like an extremely optimistic timeline.

    CAHSRA says that it plans to issue "Notices to Proceed" for the track and systems contract in September 2020, followed by the rolling stock in December 2020. By your timeline, that would give the contractors just under a year to lay tracks, set up the electrical system, build a maintenance facility and deliver at least one trainset (or at least a test train). That's a lot of expensive and complicated work.

    As a point of reference, Siemens is building new railcars for California, the order was signed in November 2017 and the first test cars rolled off the line in November 2019. That's two years, on an extremely expedited contract.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
  18. Dec 2, 2019 #18

    Devil's Advocate

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    California HSR was originally proposed and approved back during Schwarzenegger's governorship, so are you saying that he should have anticipated his own party would start attacking high speed rail as soon as Obama began supporting it? Sometimes it's hard to keep up with your revisionist history.

    Nobody seriously thought a $2.25 billion stimulus grant was enough to bring HSR to CA. Tens of billions in passenger rail funds were being proposed for the next government to approve if things had gone a different way. You win some you lose some, but the main problem this time around was that we only had a small window remaining to start seriously mitigating climate change and we blew it. But at least that silly hope and change nonsense were finally vanquished, right?
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  19. Dec 3, 2019 #19

    cirdan

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    On a diesel engine the motors are still electric, right? So it's an electric train. Problem solved. :)
     
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  20. Dec 3, 2019 #20

    west point

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    The problems of a phased construction of the CA HSR causing operationally are many. The US does not have the expertise yet for building a system end to end yet and may never be. The US is not like China that is constructing HSR on a expedited basis route by route. Note China even so is lengthening many routes (13 ) by the end of this calendar year.

    This "may" be one way the CA system takes partial system completion into operation ?
    1. If the first trains are approved for the 220 MPH operation over electrified portions. A diesel will pull the train set over conventual tracks, disconnect and another diesel connected at the end of electrified territory. The diesels would need to have compatible HEP availability.
    2. The diesel remains on train on electrified territory probably on rear of train. It would need to be certified to be towed at HSR MAX speeds. Could the Siemens SC-44s qualify ??
    3. CA HSR might allow for Amtrak trains to run on completed sections ? That would require connecting tracks and switches to access the HSR line.
    4. PTC might be the 800# gorilla for any of the above proposals.
    5. Then of course there is the fall back of connecting to Amtrak trains at the temporary end points of in service HSR ?
     
  21. Dec 3, 2019 #21

    leemell

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    The Prop. 1A bond was meant as the opening funding. The funding estimate at the time at that without consideration for ROW costs was $40B. Current costs are estimated to be $62B to $77B. Current schedule with the Track and Systems is signed contract in April 2020.
     
  22. Dec 3, 2019 #22

    leemell

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    The document you are quoting from is not for the T&S or Rolling Stock but for the buildings to house the T&S Center and the Rolling Stock Heavy Maintenance Facility. T&S contract signed in April 2020 followed a couple month later with the Train Sets. The CHSR Sched. shows delivery of the test prototype 18 months later.
     
  23. Dec 3, 2019 #23

    seat38a

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    I believe TGV's used to be towed into non electrified parts in the past. Not sure if it is a thing anymore with the expansion of the LGV's and rural electrification. It was a while back but I read it somewhere about TGV's being coupled to diesel once they were out of the LGV or electrified lines.

    HSR signaling is also PTC (Correct me if I'm wrong) so that covers the trains when it runs on its own and if the Chargers do the pulling on existing rail, wouldn't that already be covered by the PTC that it already uses? I maybe wrong but if the being towed by diesel, wouldn't the engine be the only thing that needs to be PTC compliant?
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  24. Dec 4, 2019 #24

    cirdan

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    Or how about electro diesels or IEPs as are being supplied by Hitachi to the UK
     
  25. Dec 4, 2019 #25

    cirdan

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    As far as I am aware there was only one line where this was done regularly and that was in Brittany. The diesel locomotives used were specially modified because the standard towing gear on a TGV is intended for emergency rescue only and requires quite a bit of fiddling about and removing and adding various bits until you can actually couple it up to a normal locomotive, and furthermore doesn't support HEP etc. In fact normally if a TGV breaks down and needs to be rescued they send another TGV set to tow it because fiddling around with locomotive connections is just too cumbersome. These diesels were fitted with TGV compatible automatic couplers that automatically connected HEP, air lines etc, so attaching or detaching could be done very quickly and efficiently.

    The practice has since ceased because that line is now electrified.

    Something similar was done in the UK so Pendolino sets could reach Holyhead, which is quite an important source of traffic because ferries to Ireland start from there. That practice has also been discontinued as far as I know.
     
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