Electrification will help Caltrain, communityBy Mark Simon
There are concerns among devoted Caltrain supporters that the plans for an electrified and modernized Caltrain will result in a diminishment of the service to the communities and customers we serve. To the contrary, these plans will help preserve the commuter rail system. We can state unequivocally that the electrification of Caltrain will result in faster, more frequent service. It also will make the rail commute more convenient and more reliable than ever.
Some of the concerns focus on a conceptual schedule for a fully electrified Caltrain that the rail agency the California High-Speed Rail Authority for its planning purposes. This conceptual schedule is not a plan or a proposal. It is one version of a number of trains that could run on a two-track electrified system. It does not predict the type of service that Caltrain would provide on a system with four fully integrated tracks. Caltrain can and will plan its service in accordance with the needs and desires of the customers and communities we serve, and we will retain the ability to operate express service.
In addition, when a four-track rail system is built on the Peninsula right of way, Caltrain will be able to operate on any and all of those tracks. In a four-track system, Caltrain will be able to use all tracks to operate the Peninsula railroad in a way that means more service, faster service and better service. All electrified trains will be capable of traveling from San Jose to San Francisco faster than the current schedule. An electrified Caltrain will be a Caltrain for the next generation - entirely new and able to accommodate future job and population growth in the region.
The conceptual schedule shows more stops, and that means more service, which means more customers and more access to service for all those people who want to ride Caltrain but can't under the current system constraints. And we will be running express trains. Without these improvements, the service that we provide today - the service that keeps 37,000 daily commuters off our already congested freeways - is at risk. For this reason, the Peninsula stands to benefit from the improvements associated with electrification.
Simply put, it is Caltrain's right of way. We hold it in trust, manage it and operate it for the customers and communities we serve. Therefore, we reserve the right - and are prepared to assert the right - that anything that happens on the Caltrain right of way will benefit Caltrain first and foremost.
Mark Simon is Caltrain's executive officer for public affairs.
Copyright ©2010 Daily Journal. Published 05/25/2010.