Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

Nobody could have predicted

The Press Democrat has an interview with SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian. Here is Mansourian defending the agency’s screw-ups:

Mansourian, who has earned praise and criticism for his full-steam ahead managerial approach, did not appear chastened as he reflected back on the events of 2016 that prompted the service delay.

He made the case that SMART could not have foreseen having to replace the engines on each of the 14 rail cars because of a design flaw, nor the challenges getting warning signals at crossings to work properly or the difficulty attracting staff to the high-cost North Bay.

“If there was anything that was in our control and we could have worked harder, and we had a crystal ball, then we would probably feel awful,” he said. “But there were three things that led to this — not a single one of them was in our control.”

In fact, no crystal ball was required. All of these mistakes were entirely predictable and preventable. SMART could have ordered a reliable, off-the-shelf trainset. Instead, they spec’ed out a custom model, which would inevitably have bugs. SMART also designed a signal system around track circuits instead of axle counters. Axle counters are the industry-standard approach because they are 5 times more reliable.

SMART blames its staffing problems on the high-cost of living. In fact, there is an absurd amount of featherbedding. Trains will have both an engineer and conductor, when only an engineer is needed. And there will be eight vehicle technicians, for a fleet of just 14 railcars.

Read Full Post »

The VTA has published the draft EIR for phase 2 of the San Jose BART extension. Phase 2 would extend the line starting from Berryessa, through the downtown area, and terminating (for now) at Santa Clara Caltrain. The projected cost is more than $4.7 billion.

Like most EIR’s, it is extremely long. But you can skip to this one chart, which tells all that you need to know about the cost-effectiveness:

bart-sj-cost-effectiveness

In other words, the VTA will spend over $4.7 billion to generate just 14,619 new transit trips. Counting operating subsidies, that is more than $50 per trip.

 

 

Read Full Post »

And this is why we can’t have nice things:

“This plan looks more like fantasy than fact, and we’re going to fight it,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told reporters.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s proposal to overhaul sections of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor route in Connecticut has already hit heavy resistance in southeastern Connecticut, where the agency wants a new 30-mile inland segment to bypass the curving, twisting tracks between Old Saybrook and Kenyon, R.I.

The FRA met stiff opposition in Connecticut last week when it released a massive report documenting how it wants to modernize Amtrak’s heavily used but badly deteriorating 456-mile Northeast Corridor route from Washington, D.C. to Boston.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and Blumenthal all slammed the proposal for Connecticut, where Amtrak’s Acela and Northeast Regional trains run along the shoreline from Greenwich to Stonington.

Read Full Post »

Amtrak is really trying to upstage airlines on complicated boarding procedures:

On the day of your trip, check in with a uniformed Amtrak employee who will verify your ticket, and issue you a boarding pass. You will then be directed to the appropriate boarding area to wait for your train. The earlier you check in, the earlier you’ll be in the boarding process. If you don’t check in, you’ll be among the last to board.

Board with Your Assigned Group
About 30 minutes before departure, a boarding call will be announced and you’ll board with your assigned group.

General boarding for passengers traveling in Coach Class will take place in the Great Hall. There will be signs to direct you to the location of your assigned group. Customers who purchased a $20 Priority Boarding Pass for the Legacy Club will be the first Coach Class group to board.

They also recommend arriving at the station at least 45 minutes before departure, to deal with this nonsense. And “boarding gates” will close 5 minutes before takeoff train departure.

gate

Read Full Post »

In an action that went largely unnoticed last month, the CHSRA has changed the specifications for platform lengths. Whereas they were originally to be 430 meters (long enough for double trainset), they will now be just 800 feet (243 meters). This will effectively cut the capacity of the system in half.

The memo does allow for longer platforms at shared stations — if other operators are running longer trains. Its effect on the cramped Transbay Terminal is unclear, as Caltrain is only planning for 8-car EMUs.

The decision also affects placement of turnouts and crossovers. So once the track and platforms are locked in concrete, it would be extremely difficult and costly to change later on. Reducing costs of the project is one thing — but this is an example of being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

doubletrain

Double trainset

Read Full Post »

Back in 2009, SMART came up with a bonehead plan to use custom-design rolling stock — a decision heavily criticized in this blog. And here we are six years later, and they are still struggling to get something working:

On September 7, 2016, SMART was notified by SCOA [Sumitomo Corporation of America] that the failure was due to an underlying design flaw in the engine’s crankshaft. Responding to this news, SMART’s Vehicle Maintenance Superintendent, supported by LTK vehicle engineers, travelled to the Cummins Engine facility in Seymour, Indiana, and on September 14 met with Cummins, carbuilder Nippon Sharyo and SCOA. At the meeting it was agreed that the engines would be rebuilt with a new crankshaft designed for the life of the engine, as soon as possible.

So now all the engines will need to be scrapped, and the train design re-tested. The SMART staff is now (very optimistically I think) saying the line won’t open until at least Spring 2017. The previous opening date was supposed to be the end 2016 (which had already been pushed back 2 years due to other issues).

Remember: the whole rationale for using custom FRA-compliant rolling stock was that it would take “too long” to get regulatory approval for off-the-shelf European DMUs.

Read Full Post »

BART bond does not address structural deficit

In the November election, voters will decide whether to approve a $3.5 billion bond for overhauling and repairing BART. The East Bay Times has been editorializing against the bond. Most of what they write is completely loopy. For example, complaining that the costs are not given in year-2065 dollars, or that households would pay more if interest costs were to balloon to 12% (if rates get that high, then the BART bond will be the least of our worries).

There is, however, a kernel of truth in the argument that the bond is back-filling a structural deficit in the maintenance budget. The Times scapegoats the “excessive” worker salaries for this deficit. That is incorrect as the deficit would exist even without recent pay increases. The deficit is the result of two structural problems.

The first problem is the long-term decline in gas tax revenues. For the past two decades, politicians at the State and Federal level have refused to increase the gas-tax. As inflation eats into gas-tax revenues,  there has been a big decline in revenue to support transit operations. This has forced BART and other agencies to use creative accounting and borrowing to shore up finances — but that can only go on for so long.

The second problem has to do with the design of BART itself. The low-ridership extensions into far-flung suburbs are a huge drain on finances. Unfortunately, the BART bond exacerbates the problem by providing $350 million for the construction of new parking garages. Subsidizing auto-centric development around the peripheral BART stations is not the solution to the suburban ridership problem.

bart_parking

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »