Might Caltrain trains have less room after electrification?

At the last Caltrain board meeting, Caltrain staff reported results of technical investigations into the potential for rail cars allowing compatibility with High Speed Rail.   The good news is that it looks to be technically feasible, and High Speed Rail is offering to contribute funds to enable compatibility. The worrying news is that the resulting system might have less room for passengers than before electrification, and it could take ten or more years to catch up.
Electric train
The main reason that transit supporters – riders, employers, and anyone concerned about congestion and the environment – want electrification is more room on the crowded train line.   Caltrain and High Speed Rail need a better solution when electric service goes live.
Even in the best of circumstances, the new cars were going to have less room per car than today’s cars, because instead of a locomotive upfront, each self-powering EMU has mechanical gear on board.   Today a 5-car Caltrain train has about 650 seats.    Electric trains would only have 600 seats each.  (But Caltrain would run ~20% more frequently and stop at more stations, carrying overall more passengers.)   The double-door approach would remove 78-188 seats per 6-car train.
The result could be that in 2020/2021, when Caltrain starts electric service, there could be less room on the train than before (!)  While Caltrain can compensate for the loss by more quickly moving to longer trains – and eventually make it almost all back when the extra doors are removed – Caltrain staff say that Caltrain might not be able to get the room back for well over a decade (since it would take many years to raise and extend all the platforms)
The reason for Caltrain to do the double-door compromise was that High Speed Rail claimed that it would be difficult for it to procure lower level trains that could travel at the needed speed.    And High Speed Rail would advance money – somewhere between $600Million and $1Billion – to get the upgrades done, including longer platforms.
On a corridor that is starving for transit space, with a system that will need voter funding it will be a very hard sell to explain why to spend more money for improvements that won’t add more passenger space sooner.
There will be more details forthcoming at the upcoming board meetings for Caltrain, HSR, and the Transbay authority.  Hopefully staff will provide the boards the important information needed to evaluate decisions:
* How many people will Caltrain be able to carry per peak hour when electrification goes live?
* How many passengers will fit on the train, both standing and sitting?
* How will the double-door configuration affect “dwell time”, and therefore overall corridor travel time?
* How soon will Caltrain be able to provide longer platforms to carry more passengers?
There are important questions to answer very soon, before Caltrain and HSR spend money on trainsets.
* Might the state and taxpayers be better off if High Speed Rail looked harder for compromise-height trains?
* Electric trainsets are shorter because there’s no locomotive. Could Caltrain fit a 7-car electric train set in the same space as a 6-car diesel set, immediately adding 17% more passenger space at the cost of 17% more cars (see slide 14 here)
* Could the platform upgrades happen sooner?
* Could Caltrain run more frequent service sooner, and how would communities deal with the impacts on at-grade crossings?
* Should Caltrain and HSR give up on compatibility? What would that mean for service to Transbay, which would be the most-used station in the corridor?
Less room on the trains in 2021 is the wrong answer.   Caltrain and HSR need solutions that will give Peninsula corridor riders, employers, and tax payers more room on the trains.