Follow Caltrain’s Future – Streetsblog San Francisco

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Caltrain publicly revealed its first batch of new electric trains on Saturday at San Francisco’s 4th and King Street Stations. Caltrain executive director Michelle Bouchard told Streetsblog during the event: “It’s our first experience with what drivers expect.” Of course, the new car is just the most high-profile part of the $2.4 billion electrification project that It should be completed in 2024.

From Caltrain version:

Caltrain passengers will be better served by new high-performance trains. They produce far less noise than diesel cars, making the journey more enjoyable for riders and residents who live near Caltrain tracks. The new car also offers enhanced amenities, including new digital on-board displays, power sockets for each forward-facing seat, a new seat palette of public choice, energy-efficient lighting, coat hooks, security cameras, and expanded storage under the cantilever Space seats.

In addition, each set of trains will have seven carriages instead of the current five or six. The new trains also accelerate and decelerate faster than diesel alternatives, which must be pulled by locomotives. This will expand Caltrain’s service level to the current 104 trains per weekday.

“The Bay Area is the high-tech capital of the world, and it deserves a transportation system that reflects that,” Congresswoman Anna Eshoo said at a news conference at the Caltrain station on King Street. “The tracks laid in the age of the steam engine will carry modern electric trains along the peninsula, perfectly embodying our spirit of innovation and dynamic change.”

Take a look inside the train. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Check out the electric Caltrain interior. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Unlike BART’s “Fleet of the Future” modernization program, Caltrain is able to use standard off-the-shelf rolling stock. These trains, although assembled in the US, are just a variation on the ubiquitous Stadler KISS in Switzerland. Stadler has sold more than 1,000 of these 110 mph trains across Europe (and Streetsblog has traveled on them many times). They operate on standard gauge track and use 25 kilovolts of electricity, which means Caltrain will be able to exchange equipment and make joint orders with other U.S. passenger railroads using electric trains on the East Coast, Chicago and Denver in the future.

Take a look at the cab of the new train. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Check out the cab of the new electric Caltrain rolling stock. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

The use of this standard equipment opens up another possibility: Bouchard told Streetsblog that Caltrain is currently in discussions with Stadler to add some hybrid trains that could run on batteries or hydrogen in addition to overhead electrification. This means that some non-diesel single-seater service from San Francisco all the way to Gilroy may be possible some time after Caltrain electrification is complete between Tamien and San Francisco. She even said Caltrain service might eventually be available as far south as Salinas. Caltrain’s contract is reportedly for 96 train cars, with an option to purchase 20 more.

Meanwhile, cyclists saw Caltrain’s new bikes, which include several seats that allow riders to keep an eye on their stationary state. With two bike carriages per train, there are still fewer than bicycle advocates would like, a contentious issue during car development.

One of the bikes, photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
A bicycle carriage on a new Caltrain train. Note the foldable jump seat for those who want to babysit the bike. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

There will also be WiFi and power outlets throughout the seats.

There are sockets at every seat. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
There are sockets at every seat. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

The train’s large bathroom is fully ADA compliant and includes a baby changing station.

Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Over the next few years, Caltrain will test these trains and receive more rolling stock until 75% of the existing fleet of diesel trailers is retired (those hiccup old beasts will continue to run on trains to and from Gilroy for a while). According to Caltrain, electrification of 51 miles from San Francisco to Tamien will increase its capacity, equivalent to adding 5.5 new lanes to 101.

Models of previous generations of Caltrains and South Pacific trains, with the oldest steam engine on the far right. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Caltrain will host more events to give the public a tour of the new train. Soon, when all the wires have been strung and tested, these new sets will be available to everyone who wants to ride them. There are two more pictures below:

The coupler adapter allows the diesel car to temporarily pull the train. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
For train fans only: A special adapter allows diesel cars to temporarily pull the train for public display. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
A double-decker Amtrak train (right) runs under the Catin overhead line, which shares the track in San Jose. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
A double-decker Amtrak train (right) runs under the Catin overhead line, which shares the track in San Jose. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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