Bay Area transportation leaders on Wednesday approved the region’s deal with the state to split the $1.5 billion cost to electrify the Caltrain line that would ultimately be shared with statewide bullet trains.
“It will be much-improved train service in the corridor and it allows us to get some relatively early benefits of the spending of the high-speed rail funds without having to wait 10 to 20 years,” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, whose administration helped draft the deal, said in an interview after the vote…
By sharing a pair of tracks with Caltrain, it could take California high-speed trains 45 minutes to travel between San Francisco and San Jose on their way to Los Angeles, instead of 30 minutes with four tracks. The slowdown also calls into question whether the state can meet its legal mandate to whisk bullet trains between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2 hours, 40 minutes — a requirement that relied on lightning-quick speeds in the Bay Area.
Engineers also were banking on up to 10 high-speed trains per hour in each direction with an expanded railroad. But with fewer tracks, officials say, six Caltrains would run each hour, leaving room for just two to four high-speed trains in the Bay Area. With slower trip times and a reduction in service, the rail line’s ability to attract riders could be hindered, leading to a possible violation of the law that requires the rail line to break even and avoid a tax subsidy.
Lastly, the measure voters approved requires the new system to reach the new Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco, and critics have questioned whether sharing the existing Caltrain corridor is enough to meet that criteria.
I’m taking a special topic course (USP180) this quarter on CA HSR.