Speaking of CPUC meddling, it is worth discussing the design of the Sprinter platforms. Here is a picture of the problem:
Now you are wondering, what is the deal with the lift gate? The explanation is found in California PUC General Order 26-D. A relic of the Steam Era, it stipulates unusual platform clearances. For a standard 4′ high platform, the clearance has to be a 7′ 6″. That is too wide for passenger boarding — unless some kind of lift gate is built into the platform.
So the NCTD built these lift gates into the platform — at huge expense. The lift gates comes down when the Sprinter is running, it goes up when the freight train is running.
The only other alternative for NCTD was an 8″ platform, which permits the more standard 4′ 8″ side clearanace. Now even though most other rail services in California have used the 8″ height, it isn’t a good solution. That is because an 8″ height is too low for level-platform boarding. Indeed, most other jurisdictions prohibit such a low platform height, because it encourages passengers to wander onto the tracks.
So thanks to the CPUC, California is stuck with a 1948 regulation that specifies nonsensical platform clearances for 21st century trains. And until the regulation gets fixed, we are stuck with expensive and/or dangerous platforms.