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Caltrain electrification is ‘essential,’ agency says

(The following appeared on the Progressive Railroading website on April 27, 2010.)

New Caltrain budget projections show that electrifying the commuter-rail system is essential to the agency’s survival.

Caltrain currently is facing a multi-million-dollar deficit in FY2011 and beyond due to reduced contributions from its partners — the city and county of San Francisco, San Mateo County Transit District and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority — as well as a decline in ridership. To make up the shortfall, the agency might have to eliminate mid-day, night and weekend service.

Caltrain, which currently operates diesel-powered trains between San Francisco and Gilroy, Calif., needs a “modern, electric-powered railroad” so it can provide faster, more frequent service and, in turn, attract more riders and generate more revenue, according to the agency.

If Caltrain did electrify its system, revenue would increase 49 percent by 2019, while operating costs would remain flat, officials believe.

However, it would cost more than $1.5 billion to electrify the corridor, improve signal systems and purchase new rolling stock.

Caltrain is hoping to receive some electrification funds through its partnership with the California High Speed Rail Authority. The state’s proposed high-speed rail system proposes running service along the Caltrain corridor between San Francisco and San Jose. The authority and Caltrain are working together to jointly implement high-speed service and electrify the corridor.

For more on how Caltrain’s electrification plans tie in with California’s high-speed rail program, listen to a new podcast posted on HSRupdates.com, a subscription-based website devoted solely to high-speed rail. The podcast features Robert Doty, program manager for the Peninsula Rail Program.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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