Caltrans Wants Input on California State Rail Plan

The just-released 2018 California State Rail Plan is the state’s strategic plan for creating a coordinated, statewide rail network. It calls for increased investments in existing networks, including electrification, more grade separations, higher frequency service, and better integration among different systems.

The plan includes a vision to expand and improve both passenger and freight rail service, including seamless connections, increased reliability, modern and comfortable trains, and quick and easy transfers between services. It projects greatly increased ridership from these investments, which include high speed rail and connections to it via other existing rail services, as well as other new rail connections and better express bus services.

A series of open houses will be held throughout the state this week (see below for details), and the deadline for submitting comments is December 11.


California State Rail Plan 2040 vision for Northern California
California State Rail Plan 2040 vision for Northern California

This state-level look at the need for rail investment could help cut across the regional disconnects that lead to the poorly integrated system we have now. The plan also addresses the limits to passenger trains because of sharing rails with freight companies, who own much of the rail right of way.

Green Caltrain, taking a look at the plan’s ideas for the Bay Area, writes:

The vision of a pulse system connected at hubs leads the plan to envision an East Bay hub station near Newark, Hayward, or Fremont to allow connections across Dumbarton to the Peninsula, to north-south service between Oakland and San Jose, to east-west services between Stockton and San Jose, and to BART. With this vision, the Plan clearly sees a need for a hub station to improve multiple connections, unlike the “blind men and elephant” fragmented view of connections found in various studies from BART, SamTrans, ACE, and Capital Corridor.

Considering the Dumbarton connection as part of the pulse system, fixing freight bottlenecks to allow timely passenger connections, and creating an East Bay hub with connections North, East, West, and BART, could provide much more convenient service for riders.

The report identifies key bottlenecks and goals to use money and leverage of the state to reduce conflicts between freight and passenger rail. SamTrans’ recent Dumbarton study assumes that will be difficult for ACE and Capitol Corridor, running on freight tracks, to achieve timed connections, and therefore it does not have robust forecasts for these connections. The difficulty of making tight connections also plays into the SamTrans recommendation to run bus service parallel to rail.

California State Rail Plan 2040 vision for Southern California
California State Rail Plan 2040 vision for Southern California

In addition to figuring out the Dumbarton connection, the plan calls for studying a second transbay tube to include rail service connecting San Francisco to Oakland and beyond, and other new connections statewide. Among the short-term goals named in the plan are:

  • Expanded service between Stockton and Sacramento, with a potential new station in Elk Grove, and possible extension of service to Marysville
  • New peak service from Roseville to Sacramento
  • Better connections and integration between existing rail services and Express Bus routes statewide
  • More frequent Caltrain services along the San Francisco peninsula
  • Faster service between San Jose and Oakland
  • Additional stops along the coast route in central California
  • Increased service between L.A. and Santa Barbara, with new peak service between Ventura and Santa Barbara
  • More trains between L.A. and Anaheim, Burbank and Union Station, and L.A. and San Diego

This plan is a visionary document, which will be useful for guiding investments towards the most efficient, sensible projects. For it to work, it must be coordinated with other freight/rail/transit integration plans, including from large regions and counties. The public meetings, listed below, are another opportunity to make sure that coordination happens.

Details on these upcoming open houses can be found here. All except the webinar will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

  • FRESNO: Today, Monday, October 30: Historic Tower Theater, 815 E. Olive Ave.
  • OAKLAND: Wednesday, November 1: Oakstop Event Space, 1721 Broadway
  • SACRAMENTO: Tuesday, November 7: Sacramento Public Library, Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, Galleria West Room, 828 I St.
  • SAN DIEGO: Monday, November 13: Caltrans District 11 offices, 4050 Taylor Street, Garcia Room
  • SAN BERNARDINO: Tuesday, November 14: Santa Fe Depot, 1170 W. 3rd St.
  • LOS ANGELES: Wednesday, November 15: Metro Headquarters, 1 Gateway Plaza, Lobby and Board Room

And on Wednesday, December 6, from noon to 1:30 p.m., a webinar will describe the plan and some of its main points.

17 thoughts on Caltrans Wants Input on California State Rail Plan

  1. Except there already IS a Bakersfield to Merced train line that continues on the the Bay Area and Sacramento. And it is well used. And it will be greatly helped by this construction. Which is only the first stage of what is the incredibly useful connection you are complaining they are not building.
    So your whole complaint has no relation to what is happening.

  2. Of course I have been to the central valley. Hence why I said that a train connecting Merced to Bakersfield, even at 300mph would struggle to be useful. Unless the train gets over the mountains to either SF or LA, preferably both it isn’t going to be valuable. So it really doesnt matter how fast they build the Merced to Bakerfield segment so long as it is open at the same time or before the segments from SF to Merced and Bakerfield to LA.

  3. CA has mountains though, some really serious mountains. Until those passes can be tackled it isn’t worth connecting Merced to Bakersfield.

    Apt comparisons would be in Japan or SW China. Xi’an to Chengdu has been under construction for nearly 15 years now and is repeatedly missing deadlines.

  4. thats about the same average speed as Sevilla – Barca.
    Just one stop – I suppose we could manage that from Chicago to (someplace 390 km away) in the mid west where the terrain is well, kinda like Spain once your out of the cities and towns. (lots of farm land)

    Imagine Chicago>Detroit in just over two hours. Thats the equivalent of Valencia Madrid in 1:50.
    (amtrak takes 5:20)

  5. Norwalk ? geez that’s f‘g hilarious

    I honestly think even the Metro guys are deep down car driving suburbanites.

    The single track curving stretch by UCSD reminds me of some old western, I half expect Jessie James to ride up and jump on the train.

  6. Probably the same folks who put Norwalk Metro station 1.5 miles from Norwalk Metrolink station.

    That bend that Amtrak and the SD Coaster take around UCSD and La Jolla shouldnt have made it into the 21st century. Why wasn’t it straightened when the 5 was built? Why wasn’t it built when the 5 was widened?

  7. and that’s about 25% slower than Seville > Barcelona on the AVE (average speed of about 195km/h on that route in spain vs about 150km/h – granted it goes 90 minutes without stopping in the middle)

  8. Why is planned UTC metro link station a couple of miles from the planned UTC trolley station in San Diego ?

    what dipsh*ts thought this one up ?

  9. Put the high-speed rail in high gear. We need it for the service it will provide, and also to open the HSR box so others can see how great it is. Even people without passports.
    It’s shameful that the US is finally doing HSR a fifty years behind the rest of the world. At the pace it’s being built, it will be outdated by the time it’s finished.

  10. Plans plans plans. There are so many obvious things that need improvement, and yet all we do is plan.

    Why is the highest ridership Metrolink line single tracked for most of it’s length?
    With almost all Metrolink lines running to Union Station, why are there not through running tracks to speed service, allow increased capacity, and allow one seat rides across the region?
    Why hasn’t the Vegas to LA line been started. Remember when private money wanted to start construction but got held up by Federal and State regulation?

  11. Just think of the money spent to prepare this, keeping folks on the pay roll.
    To me its worthless, but the Sacramento folks can continue to wave the flag, see what we are doing for you. Until the money and effort that is going to the highways, rail will be a second fiddle, getting the table scraps.

  12. I encourage you to just look back 20 years ago to all of the rail planning that was mentioned at that time, and then look around the region to see if any of it actually happened. Then apply your results to this plan. My prediction is that I’ll be dead before anyone rides an electric train with an integrated fare system from Napa to Pleasanton. That’s just crazy talk.

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