Friday, August 30, 2013

Why is BART inherently better than an electrified and grade-separated Caltrain?

The above question was made In a Reply to my SF KCBS online Comment (08-29-13) about the latest female pedestrian death-by-Caltrain at Charleston Rd in Palo Alto, Ca, the third this year here, by KCBS reader, Matt Laroche  

My Reply to Matt about why BART Around the Bay makes more sense is, as follows:

-One seat (no or few transfers) to get to most Bay Area near-track venues. 
-More difficult for suicide prone/depressed people to access tracks, since more of BART tracks are above or below ground level. Caltrain grade crossings are generally short and the track is easier to access, e.g. fewer suicides per rider/per station, per track mileage,etc
-Frees up precious SF land that a no-Caltrain (sob, sob for Caltrain aficionados) solution affords by consolidating upper Peninsula trackage onto BART for SF Mayor Lee's desired construction in high-value SoMa area.
--Eliminates over $2Billion in scarce (currently unfunded) transit $ by no longer require tunnel to TransBay Terminal(TBT), nor one way docks or turnarounds that Peninsula-only Caltrain requires....BART is already planned in the TBT with turnarounds...and can use the now-planned Caltrain docks/stations for the increased volume--with standard BART equipment. 
--Avoids the costs of a whole duplicate unique, boutique, Caltrain Peninsula train system, with its unique stations, capital needs, maintenance equipment, parts, and specially trained workers and administrative staff (admin staff eliminated!), by standardizing around BART as a holistic intra-regional core mass transit rail system, much as freeways serve cars in the road system.  
--The approximate $8 Billion to close the last 28 mile gap, based on the current cost to extend BART into SJ, including intracity higher cost elements.  Federal funds for rail gap closures are far easier to attain than new heavy rail starts. 
--Safer, not just for suicides, but when/if HSR comes up, because BART requires a different track width, its closed circuit, closed loop single track width prohibits sharing track with the statutory nightly freight trains, the 2 speeds of Caltrain Local and Express (75mph), and the higher speed HSR, i.e., three train operations and entities running 4 different train sets on the same train tracks, especially the 2-track only sections is a prescription for real disaster.  BART likely heavy passenger utilization is thus not in that deadly mix, per the recent HSR and Express train accidents that have occurred in Europe and China and other Asia countries, despite rail safety equipment (positive train control (PCT)) and procedures.   
Give it some quiet-time thought for a while. Think about BART capability as a future backbone rail bay area transit efficiency project politicians need to start to study asap given the 15 year effort to make this one-seat transit solution to connect so many bay area venues while automatically adding huge two-way bay area circular capacity to the one, safe regional rail system that all counties are now paying taxes to support, indeed, both trains. 
-Only BART's intra-regional single-seat transit mobility offering, covering the South Bay and Peninsula where Caltrain exclusively runs now, will make a very real difference in reducing and mitigating expected SF Bay Area automobile, truck, motorcycle, etc congestion on our roads -- make freeway and intercity roads that much safer.  Recall that famed Pulitzer Prized New York author, commentator, lecturer was killed in a car accident en route from Stanford University back to UC Berkeley, in part, I am convinced, because no efficient, single seat rail transit system capability existed, as exists in New York, Boston, Washington, and other cities around the world. The SF Bay Area deserves an effective and efficient, interconnected, single inter-regional, grade-separated, non-congestion-causing, safer, electrified (already is!!!!) backbone heavy rail system as BART has demonstrated works for us already.  
-BART will be getting new cars by the time Caltrain can be replaced for use on a future SJ to SF trackage. 
-BART has many miles of parallel pedestrian and bicycle trails.  With BART right-of-way, a safe, non-street 60 mile bikeway and trail can be built adjacent to it to connect to SF and SJ's expanding bike routes as well as with many intersecting trails that reach to the Bay, the Ocean, and City trails. Caltrain cannot do that because it is only on the Peninsula, but also these heavy trains, including future electric Caltrains (if that wasteful spending continues) raise too much dirt and dust onto any adjacent trail--as each Caltrain passes (one can see this today), unlike BART, for example, South San Francisco or El Cerrito's BART/Bicycle/Pedestrian proven configuration. Thus, BART supports Sustainable Living and Smart Growth Walkable Communities strategy (and access this funding). 

[end, for now]

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Today's death at Caltrain Palo Alto, California's Charleston Road Caltrain Commuter train tracks of an elderly pedestrian has some people commenting on the web that the victims are "stupid".  This is callous.  It clearly indicates that such comment authors have little personal experience nor feelings about the causes and impacts of such deaths by (Democrat monopoly) government-run and subsidized outdated surface trainsets in our midst. I ask the writers to please not be so insensitive, if they can help it.

I go to some of these Caltrain death scenes afterwards to politely "picket" to raise awareness of the need to replace this inherently dangerous, unhealthy, (GHG and brake particulate) and 100k cars of daily cross-traffic polluting, noise-making, congesting, HSR placeholder trains on the 1863 vintage street-level trackway--when the Peninsula was absolutely rural.  Relatives and friends of Caltrain's deceased victims--and some related to at-risk potential victims come up to me to express the reality of this deadly, outdated trains on them.  Caltrain deaths are not a matter of being "stupid". Far more.  

Caltrain just spent another of our $1M to re-time signals at this and other intersections "for safety". Grossly Insensitive Peninsula Democrat elected officials, many of who served on the Caltrain governing board during their careers, simply cannot bring themselves to review this dangerous train in our midst that has killed so many and will continue to until it is replaced. The worse of the worst is the hypocrite, San Bruno PG&E Blast Headline-a-week GrandStander Par Excellence, State Senator Jerry Hill, who refuses to do anything, but authorize more $$ to perpetuate this Caltrain killer train monster rather than move to consider safer BART down the Peninsula.  This week Hypocrite Hill's bill to solidify electrification of Caltrain's/HSR-funded ($600Million+) outdatedness went to Gov Jerry Brown, a rail zealot at any cost. This is like "perfuming the pig" or developing a new horse-buttock attachment for a horse drawn buggy to catch its fecal outflow to make streets cleaner and "safer".  The latest $1M "safety" improvement did is lengthen cross traffic and parallel road (Alma) idle wait times and GHG exhaust from delayed vehicles--but nothing to stop this carnage. Indeed, this is the third death here at Charleston in the past year, the 9th this year on the Caltrain trackage, and the 197th since 1995 when my count started.  
Not one of the Democrat politicians who "care" so much has ever lifted even a pinky to investigate bringing safer BART down the Peninsula to the current planned, and safer, terminus at Santa Clara University, despite the sales taxes we pay now for BART.  

Note: BART has suicides, but far fewer and far far fewer deadly accidents than this incredibly dangerous 75mph Caltrain "mini-bullet train" that kills so many on its trackage so fast, in addition to the regular, slower "local" Caltrain runs. BART's top speed is about the same as Caltrain's Express trains--but separated from people! 

It is time now to start planning to replace Caltrain with BART, the last 28 miles from Millbrae south to SCU/SJ in this innovative "Silicon Valley" and stop these stopgap ineffective "safety" improvements. Caltrain has to go away and replace it with the (not perfect, but better) BART Around the Bay (my blog name, too), electric, street-separated, quieter, safer, and mutually beneficial "one-seat" (no transfer) high capacity rail solution around our Bay--true, intraregional mass transit from/to the Peninsula, East Bay, South Bay (soon) and all those sports, education, business/downtowns, shopping centers et al --without a car. Democrat voters have the upper hand to elect responsible new politicians who truly care about our safety, transit capacity effectiveness and modernization to serve us and our growth.