FINAL REPORT - October 1992


In Association With:

Parson Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas
Wilbur Smith Associates
Manuel Padron & Associates
Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates



The CalTrain Electrification Feasibility Study was initiated by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to examine the technical feasibility of electrifying the commuter rail service on the San Francisco Peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose, including the proposed extension of commuter rail service to Gilroy.

Electrification of the study lines offers the potential for faster train service coupled with reduced operating costs through savings in fuel, crew and vehicle maintenance costs. Reductions in noise and air pollution are also important benefits. These advantages, however, are gained only at the expense of major capital investment in the electrification facilities -- electrical substations, overhead contact wiring, electric locomotives, and related equipment. The purpose of this electrification study is to evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of electrification of the study lines.

The analysis is performed for three segments of the line: (1) electrification of commuter services within San Francisco between 4th & Townsend and 25th Street, (2) between San Francisco 25th Street and San Jose's Lick Maintenance Facility, and (3) extension of electrified service from Lick to Gilroy. Electrification of the downtown San Francisco Terminal extension was covered in that project's EIS report; there is therefore no duplication of costs within this study.

The objective of the study was to determine the service level scenario at which electrification would be economically justified, or if its economic feasibility is not indicated in the foreseeable future, to determine the economic "shortfall" or subsidy required to support the electrification investment. In economic terms, the evaluation of railroad electrification involves essentially a trade-off between the initial capital costs of the electrification installed equipment and motive power and the annual economic savings deriving from reduced fuel/energy costs, reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced pollution, and reduced travel time. While the initial costs are relatively independent of future traffic levels, the annual savings vary directly with the number of trains operating; hence there is a theoretical traffic threshold, or service level, at which electrification becomes economical.

To attempt to establish this optimum service level, the approach adopted for the electrification study was to determine costs of electric traction at three possible service levels. The first would correspond to the 66-train service level scenario. This would involve the replacement of diesels with electric motive power and equipment. The second alternative is a service level of 114 trains per day, and the third alternative is a service level of 158 trains per day, involving replacement of dual mode (capable of operating as diesel or electric locomotives) with electric locomotives.

For each of these cases, the economic analysis includes the electrification investments for each operating scenario. Annual cost savings are calculated for an extended operating period beyond the initial installation, for purposes of comparing costs and benefits. The costs and benefits are compared on a conventional discounted cash flow (DCF) basis, which determines the economic feasibility of either timing alternative, or indicates the economic shortfall in either case.

Figure 1 is a map of the CalTrain Corridor.


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