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Caltrain puts exterior design of new trains up for vote

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Assuming that funds for the program come through, which was also affected by a recent vote

New Caltrain engines parked near San Francisco buildings at night. Photo by Dllu

Caltrain faces a host of pressing problems about its planned switch to new, faster electric trains, including political jostling in Sacramento and Washington DC that threatens to sweep the entire project into limbo.

But at least they have going for them: a new look. And they’re asking you to help decide.

Through this Friday, May 12, the CalMod section of Caltrain’s website will run a poll asking riders and readers to elect which of four proposed paint schemes will decorate new coaches when (and if) they get rolling.

All four are fairly simple variations on a theme, although in practice the small variations make a surprisingly big difference.

Option number one appears sleek and speedy, giving the trains a streamlined look. Whereas the mostly white color scheme of number two makes the engine resemble a gigantic RV barreling down the tracks, presumably towing the world’s largest extended family on a road trip out of control.

Renderings via Caltrain

The black and gray scheme of option number three appears as looming and imposing as, well, a freight train. While the red highlights on the driver cockpit on number four emphasize the power of the vehicle as it charges implacably ahead.

Caltrain doesn’t promise to necessarily go with the rider pick for the final look, but says “rider feedback is one of several important factors we will consider.”

According to the official timeline, the agency hopes to have the first electric train delivered by 2019, with aims at passenger service two years later.

But of course, all of that hinges on nearly $650 million in federal grants that Caltrain counts on to finance the whole thing.

Photo by Ванка5

The budget working its way through Congress right now provides a mere $100 million, but the agency says that will be enough to start hiring necessary contractors before the June 30 negotiation deadline.

Two weeks ago, Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett said he was “cautiously optimistic” that that small amount of funding indicated that Congress and the White House may eventually okay everything.

By and large such matters are out of the hands of everyday riders. But at least we get to weigh in on the paint job. Life is about the smell blessings sometimes.