|A montage of what a Caltrain EMU might|
look like, before platforms are raised.
Based on a photo by Yevgeny Gromov
Several changes were made to this document after the draft RFP was circulated for industry review. The single most remarkable change is that level boarding and platform sharing with high-speed rail is now a firm requirement, instead of an option suggested by stakeholders. These are the words from section 220.127.116.11:
CHSRA trains will run over the same alignment and stop at some of the same stations as JPB trains. The bi-level EMU must therefore have the same interface with the infrastructure as the future High Speed Rail cars, including clearance envelope, and platform boarding height.This is not only an endorsement of level boarding. It is an endorsement of complete integration with high-speed rail including not just shared tracks but also shared stations. It is a major step forward for riders and taxpayers, because it will increase the speed, efficiency and usability of Caltrain at the same time as it makes high-speed rail more affordable. It will help bring to California what Europeans take for granted.
JPB plans to raise platform heights to approximately 50.5-50.75” ATOR (to interface with a vehicle threshold height of 51” ATOR), initially at San Francisco, Millbrae, and San Jose stations. Other station platforms on the JPB system may ultimately be raised to the same level.
The New Platform Interface
Section 3.3.3 of the RFP details Caltrain's new high platform interface:
- Platform height: 50.5 - 50.75 inches
- Platform side clearance: 72 inches from track center line
- Maximum boarding gap: < 1.5 inches horizontally, < 5/8 inches vertically
Dual Height Doors
The new EMUs will have two sets of doors, not just as an option but as a non-negotiable requirement. The RFP describes the configuration in section 12:
Each vehicle shall have eight door openings, four on each side of the vehicle, directly across from each other. One set of four shall be located just inboard of the trucks and the other four above the trucks. The set located inboard of the trucks (the low level set) shall be compatible with JPB's existing platform height and existing mini-highs. The set located above the trucks (the high level set) shall be compatible with JPB's future high level platforms.A large number of bikes (at an 8:1 ratio of seats to bikes) will be stored on the lower level of two cars per train. They will access the high doors using wheel ramps built into the stairs between the lower bike level and mid level vestibule of the train.
While this is a rather unique configuration, no other train operator worldwide has had to plan for a system-wide platform height transition of more than four feet of vertical change. For such a large height transition, it makes perfect sense to use the vehicles as a tool to enable the flexible and independent reconfiguration of each individual platform, without imposing system-wide construction schedule or funding constraints. It is an unusual but quite logical solution to an unusual problem.
The upper set of doors, which will provide level boarding at new high platforms, will feature retractable door threshold extenders, to bridge the gap between the train and the platform. These are described in section 12.2.12 of the RFP.
Looking Ahead to a Well-Blended System
Caltrain has come a long way on the issue of level boarding and blending with high-speed rail. A key architectural decision has now been made that will ensure the future success of the blended system. In the 2020s, Caltrain passengers of all abilities won't give a second thought to the seamless experience of boarding a train, and will take for granted the brevity and punctuality of station stops. Meanwhile, a few train nerds will photograph the platform interface.
In the meantime, three cheers for compatibility!