Thursday, October 30, 2008

Would it Take this Long to Clear a Wreck on the Freeway?

Doing a thorough investigation of train/car collisions is important, obviously. On the other hand, passengers do need to get to work, and it doesn't seem like it should take an entire morning to sort these things out.

From the CalTrain Twitter Feed.

NB285 slightly delayed passing milbrae for no reason T19:27 6:27 PM Oct 28th

NB285 running about 10 minutes late. T19:30 6:30 PM Oct 28th

NPR says all NB and SB trains suspended at San Mateo T06:11 about 8 hours ago

Any more info? Rumor has it truck collided w/Caltrain and there are fatalities... T06:38 about 8 hours ago

Caltrain accident near 9th ave in San Mateo. Trains stopped in both direction. T06:40 about 8 hours ago

NBC shows the accident and even cars can't cross the tracks near the accident. No stated ETA yet T06:43 about 8 hours ago

Trains stopped in both directions: SB 102 @ Burlingame, SB 104 @ Belmont and NB 103 @ Millbrae. No ETA to restore service. T06:45 about 8 hours ago

KRON TV reports a fatality T06:47 about 8 hours ago

hit the truck at 9th and didn't come to a stop until 5th T06:54 about 8 hours ago

Caltrain hit a truck and killed the driver. No other fatalities reported. T07:03 about 7 hours ago

No SB trains leaving 4th St SF. Conductor says next train will arrive in at least 40 mins T07:12 about 7 hours ago

210 SB did leave SF at 7 am currently at south city and holding. 2 bike cars T07:19 about 7 hours ago

Fox 2 reporting police trying to clear tracks within 45 min, but vehicle and investigators still on tracks. T07:37 about 7 hours ago

at 7:43 still no trains arriving or departing SF T07:44 about 7 hours ago

Someone posted a pic - search twitter for 'avoid caltrain' T07:46 about 7 hours ago

The truck has been removed from the tracks, but NBC says the investigation is going to continue (no specified amt of time). T07:59 about 6 hours ago

A train arrived at SF 4th & King. Word is it will be a local train. T07:59 about 6 hours ago

Camera crew 4th St SF T08:00 about 6 hours ago

Confirmed. Next SB train leaving SF will be local. No word about others. T08:11 about 6 hours ago

A SB local train left SF at 8:18am T08:19 about 6 hours ago

Slight correction: the SB train that left SF is local to Milbrae. Unsure if local after. Will update. T08:22 about 6 hours ago

Can someone confirm stoppages in both directions at San Mateo? T08:24 about 6 hours ago

SB104 operating between San Mateo and San Francisco - SB206 and SB208 operating local service between Millbrae and San Francisco T08:26 about 6 hours ago

NB207 and NB211 operating between Palo Alto and Redwood City - NB305 and NB309 have turned and are operating south to San Jose as loc T ... ... about 6 hours ago

NB305 and NB309 have turned and are operating south to San Jose as locals T08:28 about 6 hours ago

As of 8:15-SB trains returning to SF: #104, #106, 208 - NB trains returning to SJ: #305, #309 T08:35 about 6 hours ago

trains still not moving past accident T08:37 about 6 hours ago

Both NB and SB tracks still closed at scene. Delays expected to continue thru morning commute. T08:39 about 6 hours ago

SB train going slow around San Bruno. Likely will be delayed an additional 15 minutes due to train stacking around accident. T08:40 about 6 hours ago

Just saw the first NB train pass at San Bruno. T08:41 about 6 hours ago

SB230 will leave SF on time making all scheduled stops. T08:44 about 6 hours ago

Closeup: and KCRA story: T08:50 about 6 hours ago

The SB train w/o a number will continue as local from Milbrae. Left at 8:51am T08:51 about 6 hours ago

As of 8:45, SB track opened at reduced speed. NB track remains closed. #230 and #231 left on schedule. T08:55 about 6 hours ago

NB #231 left RWC at 9:15. T09:21 about 5 hours ago

As of 9:15, both tracks are opened. Trains are operating at reduced speed thru the area. T09:22 about 5 hours ago

Trains won't be back on schedule until about noon. T09:26 about 5 hours ago

SB 134 left SF at 9:33 T09:35 about 5 hours ago

NB241 departed Tamien on time. Back to normal schedule? T10:40 about 4 hours ago

Official word: Trains won't be back on schedule until about noon. T10:42 about 4 hours ago

Halloween Treats from SamTrans and CalTrain

They will be passed out at stations and stops during Friday morning's commute.

Halloween in Silicon Valley

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SFBC: Email CalTrain Whenever you get Bumped

The SF Bike Coalition's CalTrain Bikes On Board campaign suggests: email CalTrain every time you get bumped.

Here are recommended addresses:

The above are wrapped up in a combo <mailto/> link so you can just click to send something to all of them if you have your browser integrated with email.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Halloween Train

The Society for the Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources is running their Halloween Train at Ardenwood Historic Farm again this year.

We didn't get a ride last year because they were sold out. Tickets are sold in advance at The Book End, a bookstore in Fremont. Time for another Dumbarton bike ride?

Friday, October 10, 2008

CalTrain Studies Crashworthiness

The Federal Railway Administration sets safety standards for the nation's railway network. Their safety standards for passenger equipment emphasize crash survival through strength. The result is that US passenger equipment weights 2x3 times more than that used in other parts of the world, increasing energy consumption, and making off-the-shelf equipment from other parts of the world prohibited.

CalTrain, which would like to evolve from diesel-powered mainline-style trains to electrical multiple unit trains (i.e., a slightly scaled up version of BART) has studied the effectiveness of US and European safety standards, and concluded that the FRA's "build trains like tanks" mentality is probably not making passengers any safer; I'll excerpt a summary table:

Impact Object Speed Probability European CEM FRA-Compliant
Automobile All High Negligible Negligible
Truck 30 Low Serious Serious
Truck 50 Low Serious Catastrophic
Truck 70 Low Serious Catastrophic
Steel Coil 20 Very Low Marginal Serious

Collisions between passenger trains and freight trains are another matter--but could be avoided entirely by restricting freights to late night hours after CalTrain has finished running (this has been done elsewhere where light rail operates on freight lines), on the main SF/SJ part of the line. This would mean operating trains south to Gilroy with different equipment, but probably there isn't enough traffic to justify electrification of the south end of the line anyway.

Thanks to Peter Ehrlich for forwarding this report to the SFMuniHistory list.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A More Interesting Reason to Commute

A bike to/from tag seen on CalTrain:

The Nerve!

The Yes-on-B (the Santa Clara County sales tax to pay for (some of) the operating costs of the proposed (and searching for adequate construction funding) BART extension) folks (basically the SVLG are leaving flyers on CalTrain trains.

Among their claims is that proposition B will not take away funding for CalTrain electrification.

This is not technically a lie. But it is the case that the VTA's monomaniacal obsession with BART is leading them to steal promised funding from any and all sources, including $$ promised from the 2000 Measure A sales tax for CalTrain electrification.

Defeating B is the best way to force them to abandon BART, build something they can actually afford (just run ACE trains back and forth to Fremont all day instead of letting them sit around Diridon Station !@#!) and keep their other promises.

For much more complete arguments see

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Senator Feinstein on Rail Safety

You can read her testimony to a CA state hearing on rail safety on the LA Times Bottleneck blog.

The good news is that government, a commuter rail operator, and freight railways are collaborating to install safety measures.

It's also downright astounding to see a politician showing understanding of technical details of transit infrastructure.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

CalTrain's Funding Problems in a Nutshell

A letter in the Oct 6th Murky News:

My husband and I are in our 60's and anticipate a time when we will no longer want to or be able to drive to San Francisco for the theater, symphony, shopping or even to the airport. In his article outlining why he will oppose the BART tax Scott Herhold (Page 1B, Oct. 5) gives many good reasons why other forms of transportation will get the job done more efficiently and with less capital outlay. However, there is one flaw in Mr. Herhold's argument. The bullet train currently only runs during the commute hours. It does not run in the late morning, early afternoon, at night or on the weekends. Therefore, during non-commute hours it will take significantly longer to get to San Francisco than it would on BART. If Caltrain would add bullet train runs on weekends and during non-commute hours, I would consider voting "no" on measure B. Otherwise, I still think it makes more sense to circle the bay with BART.

Susan Gutterman, San Jose

So since CalTrain is underfunded and can't provide the service you want... give money to BART instead?

CalTrain seems perpetually stuck in a vicious circle of being underfunded, operating a somewhat scrappy service, and therefore not being taken seriously, putting it last on the list for better funding!

Yeah, it's just one letter from one individual, but I think it's pretty representative of the views of so-called transportation experts in the Bay Area too.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Train Clips Truck

I biked all the way to work today. Here's why.

I need the exercise, but still...

This truck was pretty flimsy, by the look of the accident scene. The only injuries were to the truck driver, and minor.

It'd be nice to get rid of all grade crossings along CalTrain. But until the day we have funding for that, what if we banned semitrucks from grade crossings? There's enough over- and underpasses that it doesn't seem like it'd be too big an inconvenience.

Friday, October 03, 2008

CalTrain's Self-Inflicted Publicity Crapstorm over Bikes

As the unloved stepchild of Bay Area transit, CalTrain doesn't get much attention in the press, except for the occasional page 3 article when they run over somebody.

So the level of attention they've been getting lately, over their inability to make room for bikes, came as a surprise. I've seen stories in the Chronicle, and the issue has even made TV and radio news.

Not too mention that local papers' letters-to-the-editor pages have been filled to bursting with complained from habitually bumped bikers, many of whom are public resolving to give up and go back to driving.

All this seems to have finally gotten some attention from the CalTrain board, who will now finally look at adding more bike capacity to trains (but couldn't they have reached this conclusion a year ago?)

Kudos to angry bikers who showed up at CalTrain's meeting yesterday and helped sway their opinion, some with visual aids.