Future Caltrain Systems & Services


The Caltrain Modernization Program (CalMod) is a $1.9 billion project that will add a positive train control (PTC) system and electrify the main line of the U.S. commuter railroadCaltrain, which serves cities in the San Francisco Peninsula and Silicon Valley, as well as transition from its current diesel-electric locomotive powered trains to electric multiple units(EMU). According to Caltrain, electrification of the tracks will allow it to improve service times via faster acceleration and shorter headways, reduce air pollution and noise, and facilitate a future railway tunnel (the Downtown Rail Extension) into downtown San Francisco‘s Transbay Transit Center (as diesel trains cannot serve underground stations). (Wikipedia)

The Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP) is a key component of the Caltrain Modernization program. The PCEP would electrify the Caltrain Corridor from San Francisco’s 4th and King Caltrain Station to approximately the Tamien Caltrain Station, convert diesel-hauled to Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains, and increase service up to six Caltrain trains per peak hour per direction. Operating speed will be up to 79mph, which is what it is today. Completion is projected for 2022. Caltrain PCEP Website

California High-Speed Rail (abbreviated CAHSR) is a high-speed rail system under construction in California in the United States. It will connect the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center in Anaheim and Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles with the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco via the Central Valley, providing a one-seat ride between Union Station and San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes. Future extensions will connect to stations to San Diego County via the Inland Empire, and to Sacramento. CAHSR will operate on dedicated, grade separated tracks for the entirety of its route between San Jose and Burbank with speeds of up to 220 miles per hour (350 km/h), with early ridership projections for the San Francisco to Los Angeles leg at 28.4 million per year. The San Francisco–San Jose and Los Angeles–Anaheim sections will be shared with local trains in a “blended system”. The project is owned and managed by the state of California through the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CAHSRA). Completion of the Los Angeles -San Francisco section is currently planned for 2029.

Grade Separation Perspectives

Many Peninsula cities are now planning grade separations that would replace existing “at-grade crossings”. The primary objectives: (a) improve safety and (b) minimize future local traffic delays.

  • Vehicle traffic is projected to grow significantly on the Peninsula.
  • The Caltrain Modernization Program includes the electrification of the Peninsula Rail System. This project has started and scheduled for completion in 2022. The improvements themselves would likely reduce delays at existing crossings even if future traffic matches the official projections that were made available in 2014.
  • In 2014 Caltrain assumed  the number of “peak-hour” commuter trains would increase from four to six by 2024. This increase would have the effect of increasing delays at crossings and reducing the level of service at nearby intersections. However, the net impact and significance of electrification and more trains will vary by crossing location. (Note: Caltrain is now revisiting its assumptions and projections as part of its current business plan update)
  • The addition of high-speed trains will negatively contribute to vehicle crossing delays and intersection levels of service, and the actual significance will vary by crossing location. Caltrain has assumed two trains during peak hours of traffic.
  • Grade separations can either reduce or minimize traffic delays during peak traffic hours at crossings and nearby intersections. The actual impact and value depends on many factors and these vary greatly by crossing location.
  • Cities are responsible for submitting grade separation plans and applying for funding; Caltrain is responsible for the construction of individual grade separations.
  • Key Objective of Draft Caltrain Business Strategy: The implementation of new services and infrastructure on the corridor will create a range of community benefits, opportunities and impacts. The Business Plan can address this reality by exploring economic, policy and technical approaches that will allow Caltrain to strategically and equitably manage its interface with communities in a way that minimizes impacts, generates value, and supports the Service Vision.

Current Grade Separation Projects

Peninsula cities are at different stages in their planning for grade separations as shown I’m the table below.

Grade Separation Schedule And Funding

Individual grade separations will be constructed only after (a) the value has been demonstrated and (b) funds become available. This means some will likely not be built for a decade or more.

  •  The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board will determine grade separation priorities.
  • Caltrain will analyze the impact of potential grade separations. Examples of how Caltrain calculates expected traffic impacts.
  • Potential funding sources include the state, counties, and cities.  Caltrain is not required to fund grade separation construction.
  • Individual cities are responsible for developing their own grade separation plans and applying for financial assistance. San Bruno completed a grade separation in 2014; San Mateo begins grade separation construction soon, and Burlingame has received a commitment for engineering drawing development for a grade separation on Broadway Avenue.
  • As of year-end 2017, no funds were available for grade separation projects not already approved.

Menlo Park Grade Separation Planning

The City Council is evaluating two studied alternatives, and a group of residents has proposed the city evaluate a third one – a fully elevated and open rail structure.

View analysis and recommendations.