Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

BART fare evasion has become the cause celebre, with the agency given a blank check for security-theater. A partial list of projects includes $60 million to secure stairwells at night and $18.4 million for new fencing. BART may even spend $200 million replacing faregates with newer models.

According to BART officials, the fare-evasion costs the agency $25 million per year. That might sound like a lot, but in relative terms it is 5% of ridership (which compares favorably to other big city metros).

What if I told you there was another transportation system in the Bay Area with a much worse cheating problem? A large network covering the whole Bay Area, whose evasion rate was a whopping 24 percent?

I’m referring of course to the HOV highway network. MTC studies find that 24% of vehicles in the HOV lane lack the necessary number of passengers.

And whereas BART fare-dodgers don’t slow up trains, HOV cheaters very much clog up highways — to the point where average speeds in the HOV lane have slowed to a crawl. This in turn slows public transit and other buses, with large economic cost.

Unlike BART, the HOV lanes operate on the honor system and there are no plans to change that. So despite the rampant cheating, don’t expect Caltrans to install toll-booths or K-rail to “harden” HOV lanes.




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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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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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On April 5th, the Santiago Metro ridership was an impressive 2,932,210 trips — a new record. The coming years will greater ridership as three new lines are added, bringing network length to 300km. Some excerpts from an interview with Louis de Grange, who manages the system:

Its been a good year. We beat the record of passengers transported, with 2.9 million users in one day. In addition, the failure rate of the rolling stock was among the lowest since there are records and we have a very good valuation of the service among the users. The company is in a very good condition. I think that the announcements of lines 8 and 9 were an accolade and great news for seven million people. Thus, I believe that the new transport system will be based on Metro, which is a significant turning point for the city and for the vision that exists in this area.

Metro covers, with the revenues coming from the technical tariff, its operational costs and, in addition, finances 30% of the new projects. The remaining 70% of the works is financed with state resources. The company also requires a flow of resources for current projects and therefore must go out to borrow with bonds to the market, both in Chile and abroad. That’s clear. This company has an extraordinary risk rating. It must be clearly stated that the cost per kilometer of each route amounts to around US $ 100 million.

Could a service be concessioned?

Metro projects are cheaper if we do them, because of the experience we have for decades. We are more efficient than any other private building. The expertise we have allows us to build and operate at a lower cost. Therefore, we do not think of a concession for this type of initiatives.



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SF Muni fixes seat height

As noted earlier, seats in the new BART trains are uncomfortably high. SF Muni made the same mistake with their new light-rail trains, but at least they have now corrected the problem:

Design changes will come to the next batch of trains based on passenger feedback Muni has received since the arrival of the new trains. The transit agency plans to lower the seats by two inches, including on trains that have already arrived, and also provide different lengths of hand straps and an archway handhold in the middle of the train.

BART really needs to fix this as well.


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