Rail CA: Some Mission Bay Neighbors Fuming Over Caltrain’s Diesel Dust

: mastransitmag – excerpt

Nov. 27–Toby Levine braced for noise and pollution 10 years ago when she moved into San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, two blocks away from the Caltrain station at Fourth and Townsend streets.

Yet the pervasiveness of the diesel dust surprised her. It frosted the geraniums on her balcony and caused the leaves of the podocarpus trees to droop and turn brown. It stuck to her windows, freckled her neighbors’ deck furniture and collected in air vents.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if we were dealing with a less-dangerous chemical, but diesel is poison,” said Levine, who for years has led a neighborhood campaign to get Caltrain to minimize the emissions from its locomotives while neighbors wait for the rail system to go electric in 2022.

At the San Francisco station, which has 12 tracks, the first trains start rolling around 4:10 a.m. every weekday, and the last one pulls in at 12:05 a.m. During the slower-paced weekend schedule, trains run from 8 a.m. until midnight.

So for much of the week, diesel wafts through the air up to 20 hours a day in a booming new neighborhood. Plus, Caltrain’s fleet is more than 30 years old — “near the end of its life span,” said spokesman Dan Lieberman — and its engines don’t burn fuel that efficiently.

To further complicate matters, there are no state or federal laws that regulate idling diesel locomotive engines, so neighbors have depended on the rail line and its contracted manager, TransitAmerica Services, to write their own rules… (more)

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