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Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

So much for that BART transit-oriented development policy:

The BART board is expected to consider on Thursday an additional $37.1 million, 655-space parking garage to the Dublin station.

The proposed six-story garage would replace a current surface parking lot of 118 spots. A net 540 spaces would be added, according to a BART report. The estimated $37.1 million would include $8.6 million in design and $28.5 million in construction costs. Operating costs are expected to be $240,000 annually.

Some quick calculations show the annualized capital cost (at 5% interest rate) is $1.855 million. Including the maintenance cost ($240k) and daily parking fee ($2.50) that comes out to a daily $8 subsidy per commuter!

There are currently 3,100 people on the reserved parking waiting list. So even after spending all that money, it won’t do anything to improve parking availability.

dublin_parking

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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