Archive for June, 2019

Caltrain is now installing overhead catenary, as part of the electrification project. The next step will be to test/validate the electrical systems.

Overhead catenary systems (OCS) is a mature technology, with a large and established market of products and services to test line voltage. Being in Silicon Valley, one might expect Caltrain to use the most advanced of these technologies — or not:

The traction power substations and an overhead contact system (OCS) must be verified to be mechanically and electrically compatible with the new bi-level electric multiple unit vehicles (EMUs). Rather than bringing two new systems online simultaneously, PCEP staff determined it would be in the PCEP’s best interest to first test the traction power system and OCS using a used electric rail vehicle. This staged approach will greatly reduce the likelihood of exposing the new EMUs to possible 25 kilovolt-ampere (kVa) traction power abnormalities.

Staff recommends the purchase of two used electric locomotives: one that will be utilized for testing and the other that will be utilized for replacement parts. After the purchase from Mitsui is complete, a separate contract with Amtrak will provide overhaul services for the electric locomotives, as well as storage, acceptance testing and commissioning, training, and transporting the locomotives to CEMOF.

The budget for the work associated with both contracts is $1.5 million.

Upon completion of the electrification system testing, scheduled for 2020, the Caltrain will dispose of the used locomotives.

So the plan is to spend $1.5 million refurbishing two 40 year-old AEM-7AC locomotives, and use them one-time to do a “smoke-test” on the electrical system — and then throw them away! It is hard to imagine a more expensive and ridiculous way to do line testing.


AEM-7AC being recycled for parts

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Oh, Canada

Saskatoon City Council gives in to NIMBYs, and removes a cycletrack from downtown:

City crews are already hard at work removing bike lanes from Fourth Avenue N in Saskatoon. In April, city council voted to remove the protected bike lanes from the street after members of the public complained.

The dedicated bike lanes were added to the city’s downtown two years ago as a way to keep cyclists safe and a way to promote cycling in the downtown. Detractors were concerned about the lanes limiting parking spaces and creating an unsafe, confusing situation for drivers.

Previously, council had wanted to begin expanding the city’s bike lane network by 2021, but that plan’s timeline now seems to be up in the air.

This was a parking-protected cycletrack, so the complaints about loss of parking is bizarre. And just for giggles, here is the Saskatoon Climate Action Plan.

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Other than some vague references to some Green New Deal, Presidential candidates have avoided talking about transportation policy — with one exception. Sen. Mike Gravel has published a 21st Century Transportation Vision to his campaign web page. For a candidate considered quixotic and unserious, he certainly knows his stuff when it comes to transportation policy.

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At a cost of over $30,000 per space, parking garages are the most expensive way for passengers to reach a BART station. BART also gives that parking away at below-market cost. The most vocal advocate for parking garages is BART Director Debora Allen. Allen also opposed the BART-housing bill. So it is strange to see the SF Chronicle describe her as a fiscal conservative:

Director Debora Allen, the board’s fiscal conservative, also hailed the appointment as a major improvement for the transit agency. She was heavily involved in the search for candidates.

“While some colleagues and staff began the selection process with some trepidation—uncertain that the IG [Inspector-General] position was necessary and concerned it had been forced upon BART — the process of developing the job description and listening to highly qualified inspector general candidates from across the country helped them understand the potential operational improvements an inspector general could bring to the agency,” Allen said. “The selection process brought us together to focus on what always should be front and center: the continuous improvement of the transit services we provide.”

Indeed, the job of the IG is to reduce costs at the transit agency. But what are the chances the IG recommends changes to car-centric BART stations, which consume huge operating subsidies?



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After a 2015 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, the NTSB issued the following safety recommendation. This recommendation was repeated for a 2017 Washington State derailment (where a Talgo went flying off a bridge):

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 8.22.41 AM

Next thing you know they will be recommending air bags and crash helmets.

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The disabled community is not happy with this new faregate design:

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