Although the Caltrain corridor will not be electrified for more than six years, a team of engineers is busy now designing the first system needed to modernize the tracks — the Communication Based Overlay Signal System or CBOSS.
CBOSS will help the agency add capacity to the corridor with more trains per hour carrying more passengers. When modernized, the system will be safer, cleaner and rely less on taxpayer money to operate.
Design work is about 50 percent complete, said Karen Antion, who is essentially the boss of CBOSS and a highly-experienced and highly-paid consultant.
Before she started her own consulting firm, she was senior information technology executive at Oracle and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Her current expertise is helping transit agencies develop state-of-the-art control system technologies.
Her past major accomplishments include the implementation of the E-Z Pass electronic toll collection program, the introduction of the Newark International Airport Monorail System and the advancement of the $1.5 billion John F. Kennedy Airtrain system.
She is also a founding board member of the New York Independent System Operator, a nonprofit agency created in 1999 to fulfill the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission mandate to provide fair and open access to the state’s electrical grid.
She previously served as board chair but stepped down from the agency earlier this year.
Now, she spends a solid two days a week in South San Francisco with a group of engineers busy designing CBOSS, which will be entirely unique to Caltrain and feature Positive Train Control, a federal mandate after a Metrolink crash in Southern California in 2008 that killed 25.
PTC must be in place by the end of 2015.
PTC is GPS-based safety technology capable of preventing train-to-train collisions. It also monitors and controls train movement in the event of human error and may also bring trains to a safe stop in the event of an earthquake.
CBOSS, combined with PTC, will benefit both Caltrain and the High-Speed Rail Authority and is being paid for with a variety of funds from federal, state and local sources at an estimated cost of about $231 million.
Antion said engineers are using proven technology employed by other rail agencies and making it work here.
CBOSS will provide the corridor with more functionality and is part of the $1.5 billion modernization project that will electrify the tracks and allow the agency to ditch its diesel trains in place of quieter and cleaner electric vehicles.
CBOSS will have to work on both the diesel trains and new electric fleet, however, since Caltrain will use both for a period of time once the tracks are expected to be electrified in 2019.
The design of CBOSS should be complete by September, Antion said. It will include a control center network in San Jose, radio base stations, fiber optic switches and lots of data servers.
At least 10 different consultant companies provide on-call information technology support for the agency under an $8.5 million contract approved by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board in 2011.
The consultants include: Auriga Corporation, of Milpitas: CH2M HILL, Inc., of San Francisco; CMC America, Inc., of Sunnyvale; CompuCom Systems, of Dallas; Gannett Fleming, Inc., of Mill Valley; LM Telecommunications, of Cedar City, Utah; Modis, of San Jose; RNR Consulting, Cleveland, Ohio; and Stantec Consulting Services, of San Francisco; and Karen Antion Consulting, LLC, of Stamford, Conn.
The new signal system will allow train movements and schedules to be coordinated more efficiently, improving the safety and reliability of all passenger rail operations that use the corridor: Caltrain, Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. The project also will offer significant benefit to the construction and eventual operation of high-speed rail service on the Peninsula.
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