LTK Knows the Way to San Jose: Five Rail Services at One Terminal
San Francisco, White River Junction

At a Glance

  • Client(s)
  • Caltrain (Peninsula Joint Powers Board)
  • Work Performed By
  • LTK San Francisco
  • Project Contact
  • Bill Lipfert, Vice President, Rail Operations Planning & Simulation
  • Project Description
  • Strategic planning and operations analysis for a major terminal reconfiguration to meet the future needs of five rail operators
  • Project Duration
  • 2012 to 2016
  • Project Cost
  • $6.3Million

The Challenge


Developing the best solutions to support growing volumes of passengers and trains for five separate mainline rail operators 

Caltrain’s South Terminal in San Jose, CA is one of the most operationally complex rail facilities in North America, supporting five separate mainline rail operators.  Caltrain’s commuter rail service, which schedules a mix of trains terminating at San Jose Diridon station and trains running through to Tamien and Gilroy Stations, is the dominant carrier and dispatches all trains through San Jose.  Union Pacific Railroad (UP) operates approximately 12 daily freight trains through South Terminal and retains ownership of one main track through the facility.  The Amtrak Coast Starlight long-distance passenger trains, as well as Capital Corridor and ACE passenger trains also use the facility. With all five predicting the need for additional capacity in the future, LTK was asked to help develop the best solutions to support growing volumes of passengers and trains.

Our Continued Commitment


LTK was selected by Caltrain to perform the South Terminal Future Operating Capacity and Reliability Analysis that builds on previous manual analyses by using comprehensive computerized network simulations under both non-randomized and randomized input conditions. Initially, LTK’s work focused on existing 2014 operations, then moved to planned future operations. The future operating plan includes Caltrain mixed electric and diesel powered services with a total of 6 trains per hour in each direction during peak times, an interim operation prior to full electrification of all Caltrain service.

Working with Caltrain, LTK helped to develop and refine two South Terminal capital projects that are designed to provide improved operating reliability and better capability to accommodate planned future service levels. These projects are the Third Main Track (CP-Bird to north side of I-280/MP 48.1) and the Fourth Main Track (CEMOF to Diridon) Projects. Caltrain asked LTK to quantify the capacity and reliability benefits of these projects under future operations and a variety of dispatching protocols affecting Caltrain and its four railroad partners. This work is being used to both validate the Caltrain Engineering designs for improvements and to support Caltrain’s negotiations with UP for operating protocols and engineering improvements for the Caltrain electrification.

The Solutions


To address these analytical requirements, LTK developed a comprehensive simulation model of the Caltrain Corridor, using its TrainOps® software, to test the operating benefits of proposed South Terminal improvements. TrainOps is a robust simulation package that captures the dynamics of rail operations, including train performance, track geometry, dispatcher logic, train control and terminal operations. Because of the highly-variable nature of non-Caltrain operations (especially Amtrak Coast Starlight and UP freight service), each simulation scenario was tested under deterministic (non-randomized) and stochastic (randomized or perturbed) input conditions.

The Results


Based on the analytical results of TrainOps, the Fourth Main Track project was re-engineered to provide greater routing flexibility at the station’s northern approach.  The adopted design includes complex “double slip” track switches that maximize the number of parallel moves – a northbound train can leave the station while a southbound train simultaneously enters the station on an adjacent track – for the five rail operators.

TrainOps simulation

Did You Know?


  • In addition to modeling the rail network around San Jose, TrainOps has been central to analyzing and optimizing Caltrain’s growth plans from San Jose to San Francisco, including potential extension to the Transbay Transportation Center.
  • The station was renamed San Jose Diridon Station in 1994, honoring former Santa Clara County Supervisor Rod Diridon who was a major supporter of Caltrain and its work to improve the station.
  • San Jose station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with the station building notable for its Italian Renaissance Revival architectural style.
  • In addition to passenger connections between Caltrain, Capital Corridor, ACE and Amtrak Coast Starlight services, VTA light rail service crosses beneath the station and stops adjacent to it.
  • Both Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and the California High Speed Rail Authority are planning to operate rail services at the station in the future, increasing the number of San Jose rail services to eight.
  • The station is next door to the SAP Center at San Jose, home to the San Jose Sharks hockey team and a venue for major concerts.