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]

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