As you may have heard, Caltrain has gotten a “Go” to install a modern signal system, paving the way for electrification and high-speed rail. The Governor, Sen. Jackie Speier, and other dignitaries were on hand to celebrate the new project:
The $100 million construction project aims to convert Caltrain into a modern commuter rail system with a new traffic-control system, smoother rails, and express trains that will whisk riders between San Francisco and San Jose past slower local trains in half the time. Besides track improvements, new crossovers, and rebuilding some stations, grade crossings, and a bridge, [Caltrain] will focus on two major projects necessary for express service: A new central traffic control system will allow trains to be switched from track to track from a central location….
Sen. Speier sees this project as a precursor to high-speed rail from Southern California. With California population still growing, “We can’t continue to grow by growing highways,” she said.
Ooops — my bad. That story was actually from 10 years ago.
That’s right: Caltrain already went through enormous cost and disruption to install a new signal system, called CTC, just 10 years ago. And transit advocates, at the time, were beside themselves with anger that Caltrain was wasting time and money installing a primitive system, which used wayside signals and was not at all compatible with HSR.
And now history repeats. A new-and-improved system, this time called CBOSS, will be installed. Another primitive system, again not compatible with high-speed rail (despite what the press reports would have you believe).
And what do you know — many of the same dignitaries (including Sen. Speier) are there attending the launch of the project. Don’t they remember they already funded this project once before? Were their memories wiped?
Oh, and to give an idea of how primitive these signal systems are:
Suddenly, a two-story tall, one-million-pound express train, that was not scheduled to stop at the station, came hurtling down the southbound tracks at 76 mph. The engineer hit the emergency brake. That slowed the train, but it didn’t stop until it had passed through the station. ”There were some passengers that needed to move quickly to get out of the way of the oncoming train,” Ackemann said. “And I’m sure that there were some passengers, regardless of where they were, who witnessed this and were extremely frightened by the incident.” Usually engineers radio each other or use headlight signals to ensure the station is clear before an express train zooms through, but that apparently didn’t happen this time.