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Archive for April, 2014

gBART

The Phase-1 eBART extension, now under construction, will take BART into the Eastern Contra Costa County ex-urbs. Phase-2 would take it beyond the ex-urbs, into rural and greenfield locations. Call it gBART if you will.

It is inevitable that the empty fields surrounding gBART stations will be converted to new housing developments. But will planners use this “blank slate” opportunity to build walkable communities around transit…or will it just be more sprawl?

Well, the answer is pretty obvious from the proposed station renderings. All the stations will be built in a freeway median, surrounded by giant parking lots:

Laurel Road station

Laurel Road station

 

 

Lone Tree Way station

Lone Tree Way station

 

Mokelumne Trail station (at least this one has a bike/ped path)

Mokelumne Trail station (at least this one has a bike/ped path)

 

San Creek station

San Creek station

 

Balfour Road station

Balfour Road station

 

Discovery Bay station

Discovery Bay station

 

Here is the Google Streetview of the Discovery Bay station location:

discovery_bay_streetview

 

MTC policy is that new rail projects must incorporate transit-oriented development in order to receive funding. But as can be seen from these station plans, the TOD requirements are never taken seriously.

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BART Orders Stadler DMU

For its new eBART extension, BART has ordered Stadler DMU railcars:

SAN Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has awarded a contract worth $US 58m to Stadler to supply eight two-car DMUs for use on the 16km East Contra Costa Bart extension project, which is currently under construction. Dubbed eBart, the new line will utilise standard-gauge rather than 1676mm-gauge infrastructure used by conventional Bart lines and is due to enter service in 2015. Bart officials say the $US 462m project is around 60% cheaper than conventional electric Bart services.

The Stadler cars will not be FRA-compliant, nor will they be purchased under Buy-America rules. Stadler will produce the vehicles from its plant in Switzerland.

It is worth comparing the BART DMU order with the one done by SMART. SMART, as you may recall, selected heavy FRA-compliant DMU’s over the more popular non-compliant varieties. SMART even paid for a “study” to show this would give the public a less expensive railcar. Well, now we can conclude that SMART study was bogus: the BART DMU’s are comparable in price to the SMART DMU (when accounting for inflation and LTK consultant fees).

Stadler was the only vendor that bid on the BART project. Other foreign vendors were no doubt discouraged from participating in a US project, given the convoluted regulations. As a result, BART still paid a lot more than it should have. But at least BART will get a model that has been fully debugged and burns less fuel.

 

Stadler DMU used for Austin's Capital Metro

Stadler DMU used for Austin’s Capital Metro

 

SMART's klunky DMU

SMART’s klunky DMU

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SFMTA Budget Priorities

There has been a lot of focus on Sunday parking meters in San Francisco (and rightly so). But an ever bigger concern is the anemic level of bike funding.

While the Chronicle is calling the SFMTA budget a “qualified win” for bicycle infrastructure, the outlook is grim. Just 2% of the budget would go toward bicycle facilities. That is less than the current bicycle mode share (3.5%), to say nothing of the city’s 20% mode share goal. It is also less than what other Bay Area counties are planning. For example, voters in Alameda County will be considering a transportation expenditure plan that would spend more than 8% on bike facilities.

 

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FRA Review Of Texas HSR

For its high-speed rail project, the Texas Central Railroad is proposing to use Japanese Shinkansen (“Bullet Train”) technology. The Shinkansen is, by all accounts, the world’s safest train system. There have been no fatalities in 50 years of operation. So it is amusing that the FRA would give its expertise on the safety of the technology. Robert Eckels, President of the TCR, describes some of their interactions with the FRA:

Remember how the FRA was developing “alternate compliance” rules to allow the use of off-the-shelf trains? Retrofitting half-inch steel plates into a proven design doesn’t sound very off-the-shelf.

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Ironically, he was giving a speech on track safety.

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Two Isn’t Better Than One

Jarrett Walker has good reason to be concerned about FRA rulemaking on crew size. This slide comes from a recent meeting of the FRA Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC):

rsac

From an FRA point of view, this new rule does not change anything. Commuter railroads in the US have historically used conductors and train attendants.

But it is a really inefficient use of labor. Industry best practice is to have just one crewmember (the driver). Ticket validation can best be handled throrugh random POP inspections. If this rule goes into effect, it will be another obstacle to modernizing passenger rail. DMU operations would be especially problematic. Imagine if the new Marin-Sonoma “SMART” service had to use two crewmembers. Sure they might apply for an FRA waiver, but why create more bureaucratic headaches?

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At its March 6 meeting, the VTA Board received the Supplemental EIR for the Vasona LRT extension. This $175 million project will add one or two new stations, and expand the Winchester station.

Now you are probably thinking that with Silicon Valley’s massive housing shortage, the VTA would be planning to use these stations for TOD, right?

Sadly, no. Here is the new Winchester Station-and-Park-and-Ride lot:

winchester

 

And here is the new Vasona Junction Station-and-Park-and-Ride lot:

vasona

 

And here is the Phase-2 (optional) Hacienda Station-and-Park-and-Ride:

hacienda

By the year 2035, the extension is projected to generate 729 new daily transit trips. How awesome is that!

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