Ghost doors – another option for Caltrain / High Speed Rail Compatiblity?

Yesterday at the Transbay Joint Powers Board meeting, Ben Tripousis of the High Speed Rail Authority proposed an alternative approach to Caltrain/High Speed Rail platform compatibility that could leave more time to assess the most effective solution for the blended system.

At the meeting, Transbay board members heard presentations from Caltrain and High Speed Rail about platform compatibility, and were very attentive to the compatibility issues that could affect the amount of passengers who can use transbay in the future. Board member and Muni CEO Ed Reiskin commented that “We are building this system for 100 or more years. Compatibility will be essential for future capacity. The board wants to review additional information and provide policy input to the decision to be made by Caltrain and High Speed Rail.

In his presentations, Tripousis proposed an idea to keep options open while High Speed Rail and Caltrain work out more information about how the blended system will work over time.

Currently, Caltrain is considering providing level boarding at a height compatible with High Speed Rail’s high platforms. The proposed approach is to buy cars two sets of doors – a low set of doors at 25”, and a high set of doors at ~50”. Cars would be configured with fewer seats order to clear the way for the extra doors.

Dual doors for Caltrain/HSR compatibility

Dual doors for Caltrain/HSR compatibility

Caltrain would upgrade platforms to the higher High-Speed-Rail compatible height over time. Caltrain could upgrade all of the platforms to 50”, and then the extra doors would be sealed up and the seats would be add back. Or Caltrain could upgrade only the platforms at High Speed Rail stations, at Transbay, Millbrae, Diridon, and maybe Redwood City, and then the cars would have fewer seats always. (Note that in order to get to level boarding and longer platforms and longer trains to carry more riders, Caltrain will need to upgrade all of its platforms over time anyway)

There are a lot of un-answered questions about the best path for Caltrain and the blended system. Answers to some of the questions will be figured out when High Speed Rail resumes its planning for Peninsula service and the blended system starting this summer.

Would compatible platforms enable the High Speed Rail authority to modify its designs for the Millbrae and Diridon stations to be more compact, less expensive, and providing a better rider experience?

How would platform compatibility affect overall ridership of the eventual blended service – with regard to blended commute service, where a commute passenger between SF and SJ would be able to choose any of 10 trains per hour; and with regard to Caltrain as a feeder system to/from High Speed Rail

The different scenarios have different impacts on dwell time – the amount of time the train is at the station letting out and picking up passengers. How will dwell time affect the reliability and schedule quality of the blended system?

Tripousis described an option whereby Caltrain and the High Speed Rail Authority keep options open while these questions are answered. Caltrain could order cars that had working doors at 25”, and “ghost doors” at 50”. These would be slots in the car design, that could be opened at a later date to create doors at 50” boarding height. Depending on how and when Caltrain and High Speed Rail decide on a compatibility solution, the upper doors could be opened, where needed, and the lower doors could be closed, eliminating or minimizing the amount of time that Caltrain would need to operate with fewer seats.

What do you think about this option for keeping options open?