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    In the future, the trains will (hopefully) run more often than once an hour. Yeah, it’s not great for the last train, but I’m not sure the entire system should be designed around the last train (although I’d be happy to see one bathroom on every train). And if the state can provide rest stops on the highway it can surely pay for some restrooms at stations which are already used by thousands of people a day.



    Yeah… I do agree that there should be a bathroom on each train.

    Hopefully, though, the grade-separation which is also gradually underway should reduce the number of long delays as well.


    Michael Mathews

    I honestly am aghast that providing a single restroom inside a train is even a debatable topic, especially given the relative lack of infrastructure at some stations, the differing stopping patterns, long headways off peak and frequent service delays. In theory we will have fewer mechanical problems, but don’t forget the muni train control and Breda car rollout debacles.


    Michael Mathews

    The original service proposal for electricification is still hourly at night and on weekends. These are the trips that greatly concern me, as I use them quite often. However, I’ve had commutes turn into three hour ordeals and that quick cup of coffee at 6:30 am starts to be a problem.


    Michael Mathews

    In some cases they do but there are also rest stops paid for by the state. The big difference is that you can pull off, use it, and get back in your car and continue on. If the train only runs once an hour, this plan sucks. If you are taking the last train of the day, this plan is no solution at all. A few Caltrain stations have no nearby businesses.

    The LIRR, which runs 24 hours a day and carries far more people than Caltrain, has restrooms. Why should we not have at least one?



    Businesses near the interstate de-facto provide restrooms for travelers in cars…



    I suspect that, like a lot of these issues, it’s not a question of whether the solution is functional, but a question of whether the solution will be allowed under threat of an ADA lawsuit. Even if the new trains are better than the old ones in every respect, there’s still the question of whether they are better enough.


    Andy Chow

    It is a fact that Tom Nolan flip-flopped on the restroom. Tom Nolan is a SFMTA appointee, which means he’s a mayoral appointee. What he said in June may have been his honest personal opinion, but what he said on Thursday was likely a reflection of the mayor office’s position.

    Over the course of about 2 years or so, Ed Lee’s office has been expressing a very different vision of Caltrain than what the staff has proposed, even contrary to the consensus on the Peninsula. 1. SF is pushing high platforms for sake of compatibility with HSR.
    2. SF has asked Caltrain to consider giving up 4th & King rail yard (with the possibility of relocating the yard outside SF).
    3. SF proposed an alternate alignment for Caltrain to serve Warriors arena, which would free up 4th & King rail site, and may well require platform compatibility.

    No one talked about 8:1 bike ratio until Tom Nolan brought it up and quickly voted upon. Is his sudden restroom flip-flopping and increase bike space part of a deal engineered by SF mayor’s office to appease the bike crowd? It seems to me that this is the case. Is this how SF’s going to push their agenda on Caltrain? I hope not.





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    Mountain Viewer


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    Ross P


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    Jym Dyer

    @aslevin – Why does this petition have and BRA icons on it? It gives the appearance of endorsement.


    Jym Dyer

    @Marven Norman – False framing. At any rate, your proposal is in violation of the California Civil Code. One has to wonder why unrestricted bike carriage was fine a century ago but so neglected (and subjected to this sort of false framing) during the current era of increasing demand.


    Jym Dyer

    @Andy B – Stick with what you know, then. It’s not an either/or. We’ve already been down the “folding bikes will solve this” path, and it hit the same wall of insufficient planned capacity. More bike carriage is economical, in demand, and part of California Civil Code.


    Jym Dyer

    @Andy – You make a lot of unsupported assertions here.


    Mountain Viewer

    Anybody knows how bike on boarding will work when the train platform is underground like at the TransBay Center?



    Thanks for the extensive reply, I am just going to poke a few holes in some balloons.

    - Uber really wants “deregulation” versus new regulations that support Uber.
    – Some other capitalists will naturally throw billions at undermining Uber/Lyft because muh free market.
    – Walmart took over American retailing without extensive external capital investment. Sounds ridiculously no.
    – The handwavy premise that any of this prevents driver wages from being pressed down to the usual taxi driver suspects.
    – Driverless Vehicle wankery which nobody cares about because it will be at least a decade before we actually ride in one.

    Still think Uber’s business model is quite simple. Drive the shitty local bozos under, and make it an international bozo monopoly.


    Marven Norman

    If Caltrain were to institute a fee for bringing a bike on board the train, they wouldn’t, “as a government agency”, be neglecting people’s full commutes. They would be acknowledging that some folks access the train by bike while also using the public resources to keep transit focused on most efficiently moving people. Even car drivers can’t bring their first-/last-mile conveyance <on transit with them. While a bicycle is great to have at the ends of the trip, the benefits of having it on the train are more questionable. Providing adequate and appropriate bicycle parking at the stations is a logical way to address the first-/last-mile problem of getting people to the trains. A fee both disincentives bringing a bike on transit as well as provides a funding stream to build the infrastructure necessary to make it viable to not bring a bike on transit. (Because as evidenced by their paltry allocation, Caltrain isn’t yet serious about bike parking.)

    The societal benefits from someone biking to the train are greatly diminished the moment they stop riding that bike and get on a train. At that point, society now has less space available to move people, thus it makes more sense to provide somewhere for that bike to be left while the person is on the train. I never said anything about actually charging for the parking and with the exception of Jaarbeursplein, all the Dutch examples I showed above provide up to around two weeks free of charge. (Jaarbeursplein charges after the first 24 hours.) If faced with the choice of paying for taking their bike on the train or parking it for free at the station, most people will choose to leave their bike at the station.

    Also, I never said that BABS is great. In fact, I explicitly said that funds from a bike surcharge can be used to help expand and improve it. Since you agree that it isn’t great, this is a prime opportunity to make it so, which would allow it to address the issues that do exist such as that of the reverse commute. The fact that the reverse commute is about as popular makes investing in improvements an even better deal because the bikes will be able to be utilized in nearly perfect sync.

    Additionally, it sounds like perhaps you apparently don’t quite understand how bikes and transit works in The Netherlands. A significant portion of the Dutch population owns more than one bike (there are more than 18mn bikes in a country of 16mn people) and thus leave a second (or third) bike at the other end of their commute. (That’s what many of those bikes in pictures of Dutch bike parking lots are: people’s second/commuting bike. They’re not abandoned.) That bike allows them to make a first-/last-mile journey by bike without having that bike be brought onto the trains. It looks like the Peninsula is also reaching the point where it is no longer feasible for everyone accessing the train by bike to also bring that bike on the train.

    Ideally, the Board should diverge from Dutch custom a bit at this point. In The Netherlands, it costs a flat €6 to bring a (non-folding) bike on the train no matter how far the distance. Thus, it is certainly possible to pay more to bring a bike than the fare is for the trip itself. Since the BABS coverage at the southern end is not as good as the SF end, taking a bike in that direction should be cheaper than taking it in the opposite end into the good coverage area. That’s also where the first parking stations should be installed. As I already mentioned, the $3mn being set aside for parking would buy about 8500 of the top-of-the-line bike parking racks. Obviously, all racks and no place won’t make a good parking garage, but should still be enough to build a parking facility that’ll hold about 1/3 of that amount, especially with the use of cheaper alternatives such as those at the Berkeley Bike Station as well as using it to gain matching funds (e.g. Cap & Trade funds).


    Ross P

    My completely anecdotal experience with Lyft has been a decrease in how much I bike, if anything. I walk and take transit 95% of the time now, and often if I’m taking a Lyft it’s because transit would be too slow, i’m going to the train, or I don’t have my bike with me.

    Pre-Lyft I biked a lot more often. But after moving to Oakland, bringing my bike with me everywhere has become a pain (it’s great that I bring my bike with me on my morning commute to the City now, if only there was actually room for it). Lyft has filled that gap.

    I’m not a car owner, doubt I ever will be (used to drive everywhere, and I don’t want to go back to that) but services like Lyft have been a godsend for getting around without owning a car or hauling a bike around everywhere.



    “Ticket sellers” = vending machines. Vending machines don’t “take care of” restrooms. Maintaining public restrooms at all (or even nearly all) Caltrain stations is more costly, won’t happen — and if it does — won’t work as well as maintaining one restroom per trainset as part of regular train maintenance. Lots of people (miscreant teens, homeless, drunks, etc.) will use and abuse public restrooms at stations vs. restrooms on board trains.



    The train stations with a station building and ticket window mostly have restrooms inside the building, but they have been locked shut for years. I assume the ticket sellers would also take care of the restrooms. I remember using the restrooms at the Cal Ave station and some of the others that you mention.



    What existing restrooms at train stations are you talking about!? Do you even ride Caltrain? Where are the existing public restrooms at Hayward Park? At Belmont? At San Carlos? At Redwood City? At Atherton? At Menlo Park? At Cal Ave? At San Antonio? At Mountain View? At Sunnyvale? At Lawrence? Hmmm?

    And these don’t solve the problem for an individual or family that suddenly needs a restroom and has to detrain at night or in bad weather hoping that they can find a useable bathroom someplace … and then wait up to an hour or more or even overnight (last train of the day) for the next train going to their destination? Also doesn’t address the problem of unpredictable accidents or breakdowns which can leave trains crammed with 500 hundred or more riders stuck between stations for an hour or more. Special event trains are typically full of riders who have been “celebrating” and have higher than average restroom requirements.



    Here’s a petition to the Caltrain board to keep bathrooms on the electric trains:


    Andy Chow

    I think SF’s idea is that somehow Caltrain would be like BART with level boarding, and any disabled rider can board any car.

    However since they also support more bike space they’re actually contradictory. It is likely that there would be at least 3 bike cars. For safety reasons they will need to be adjacent to each other. Again for safety reasons the bike car will need to be separate from ADA cars. At the end you may still need dedicated ADA car, especially if there’s no level boarding, which there’s no funding nor timetable for.

    ADA car can probably hold 4 wheelchairs, which is twice as much capacity as gallery cars. There will be plenty of lower level seating for disabled folks who can walk in that car. So there’s really no problem of having a single restroom because of ADA.


    Andy Chow

    But the opportunity cost for bike on board is high. Every bike space means every seat, which is in competition with the very purpose why Caltrain exists: to carry people. The opportunity cost for any wayside storage is far lower. You can put enough bike storage and subsidize riders a 2nd bike and not having to compete with Caltrain primary mission. You can convert a single car parking spot for 16 bike e-lockers for example. Caltrain may lose one rider because they can’t find parking, but can attract 16 cyclists, and free up 16 bike spots (and may be preserving more seats for fare paying riders).



    Then again, one of the upsides of electrification is that it permits higher frequency service, like BART.



    Whoa, as someone who’s taken my share of 1hr + Caltrain rides, that seems like a big fail to not have a bathroom. And I bike!

    That’s too bad the necessary funding for enough secure bike parking hasn’t been appropriated. More secure bike parking and Bay Area Bike Share stations really could go a long way towards mitigating the problem. Perhaps in addition to incentives for people to take foldable bikes aboard.

    With my own daily transit+bike commute, the bus picks me up practically in front of my place. But the last 1.5 miles to my office are when I need the bike. Unfortunately, at the place I de-bus there are only open-air bike racks. I don’t trust keeping my bike there overnight and on weekends so that’s that and I just take the bike with me every morning even though I only need it for the last leg of the trip.



    “This is literally what you want.”

    Ha! No, that’s definitely not what I want, and it’s absolutely not what I “literally” want. (What is it with the abuse of that word these days? Oy.)

    I’m chuckling only because antitrust is one of my areas of expertise, so me arguing in favor of a monopoly would be rather ironic. (Literally.) And to be clear, I don’t think Uber will ever have anything close to a monopoly on for-hire ground transportation, for a number of reasons. For starters, monopolies are extremely rare outside of fields that are either heavily regulated — which, in this case, is precisely the industry Uber is *not* trying to be (taxis) — or have extremely high barriers to entry.

    Furthermore, people have extremely short memories, and I think most have already forgotten that it was little more than a year ago that *Lyft* was the dominant player in the ride-hailing space, at least in terms of venture capital raised. (Uber sped ahead with its Series D round in June of last year.) Also forgotten is the fact that Uber is to Lyft as Microsoft once was to Apple: a brazen, utterly shameless appropriator of neat ideas. Apple launched the first personal computer and first graphical operating system, but Microsoft got all the glory with Windows — which btw is one of the *only* major exceptions to what I said in the last paragraph about monopolies being rare, but that’s another story.

    Anyhoo, it was Lyft, not Uber, that came up with the concept of people using their personal vehicles as quasi-taxis; Uber’s business solely centered on chauffeured town cars/livery vehicles its first three years in business. After Lyft came along, Uber totally ripped off their concept by launching UberX — and unapologetically pulled every stunt in the book to cap Lyft in the knees, from its ridiculous attempt at corporate sabotage (the so-called “Operation SLOG”) to scooping up its former COO who had oh-so-conveeeeniently copied virtually all of Lyft’s IP, strategies, and product/marketing plans to his personal Dropbox account before Lyft wised up and sued the asshole.

    Okay, enough digressing: Uber won’t ever have a monopoly because there will always be a newer, hungrier competitor waiting down the road. A great example here is Southwest, which went head-to-head with the then-heavily-regulated airline industry back in the ’70s and eventually ended up as the biggest, most profitable airline in the country … but *now* faces competition all over the place, ranging from jetBlue to Virgin America to super-low-cost airlines like Spirit. They also won’t have one because it’s against the law: Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act 125 years ago for the specific purpose of preventing monopolies, and for the most part it’s worked pretty well. The only massive monopoly that ended up being built despite the existence of the Sherman Act was AT&T — meaning the original version, not the vastly smaller entity today that uses the name. Prior to 1984, AT&T controlled nearly 100% of the American telephone market, before Congress forcibly broke it up into a collection of regional “Baby Bells” (so named because AT&T was originally called Bell Labs, created by none other than Alexander Graham Bell himself).

    “Also, short-term thinkers can’t understand that the ‘low prices, great service’ thing is entirely VC subsidized until they can run said small-timers out of business.”

    Well, you’re half-right: you just described Walmart to a T, but it had no VC help whatsoever. Also, my reasons for doubting Uber will ever have a monopoly are almost entirely predicated on NOT looking at the short-term. The automotive industry is — without ANY doubt — going to end up consisting of self-driving cars, and I think it’s a given that these cars will ultimately dominate 100% of the for-hire auto-transport business. (Hell, I’ll go even further and predict that we’ll probably have monthly vehicle “subscriptions,” much like the Internet and telephone industries have evolved from pay-by-the-minute business models to all-you-can-eat unlimited use.) The only *real* question is when it’ll happen. (I think it’ll happen within a decade, but I acknowledge there are plenty of good arguments why this might not happen.)

    So: the question ultimately becomes whether Uber can successfully “evolve” from driver to driverless vehicles. Keep in mind here that the annals of American business are littered with epic-fails of this nature; AOL, for instance, once had overwhelming control of the dial-up Internet space, but when cable modems and DSL hit the scene their business spectacularly imploded. A brief history lesson here: at AOL’s peak 15 years ago, it acquired Time Warner in what I think is still the largest corporate takeover in global history (IIRC the acquisition price was $165 billion). It’s also regarded by many as one of the biggest *mistakes* in global business history. Within two years — thanks to both the post-9/11 recession and rapid proliferation of high-speed home Internet — AOL Time Warner’s market cap had fallen 90 percent (!!), and in 2002 they recorded what was then the largest annual loss in corporate history: $100 billion! In a single *year*!!

    It’s far too early to pick any “winners” in the TNC space, but if history is a guide, Uber’s ultimate fate is more likely than not to be AOL-esque in nature. So don’t you worry about being driven around by “otherwise unemployable assholes” in “dubiously maintained old Camrys”!


    Michael Mathews

    In theory, yes. Bikes are not allowed on crowded cars. Not always enforced. But BART allows boatloads of luggage all hours of the day, and I’ve seen open seats you couldn’t get to on trains that had originated at SFO because of huge bags in the aisle.


    Michael Mathews

    Right. On Caltrain, even if there is a next train in a few minutes, it probably has a different stopping pattern during rush hour so you still might lose an hour to take a quick leak if you are going Lawrence to San Bruno, for example. If it is off peak, then it is going to be at least a 30 minute wait, and often an hour. This is so poorly thought through by the leadership.


    Michael Mathews

    Currently the older (gallery) trains have different restroom configurations, but there is always one in the ADA car. I don’t see how the new trains would be any worse than this. Those of us who can hike between cars can sit anywhere, and those who need assistance are seated in the car with the restroom.


    Michael Mathews

    Except so often your bus (or the light rail) is pulling in late and you have to run to make your train. Since each train stops at different stations, sometimes a “quick” restroom stop at a station can add a lot of time to your trip because maybe the next train doesn’t stop where you need to go.



    If you want to impose a surcharge for bicycling even though it’s a net benefit to the community (and Caltrain is paid for by the community), then fair is fair: we must charge rates for parking that don’t externalize the cost motorists impose on the community, from the direct costs of Caltrain needing to provide and maintain parking spaces to the negative impacts to the surrounding communities vis-a-vis congestion, pollution, increased accidents, etc. (By the way, some Caltrain stations like 22nd St charge $0 for parking. It makes no sense that we would not discourage driving via at least some fee but would charge bicyclists and discourage them.) The parking rates would be an order of magnitude more than what is charged now (for those stations that even charge). In such a case, you would find that suddenly people would be more likely to bicycle to Caltrain since parking would be outrageous and you’d likely be back in the same spot of needing more bicycle capacity.

    For the reverse commute (SF to points down south), which is nearly as large as the traditional commute, you can’t compare to the Netherlands (or any other city) where they are talking about people coming in from the suburbs (where the bicycle infrastructure is still better than even our urban areas). So it works well to bicycle to the station on the suburban end and leave your bike there since you can walk or take public transit once in the city. But for the SF reverse commute, you get to the suburbs, and what are you going to do? Public transit is garbage in these car-centric cities, so until they change that, it will never make sense to leave your bike at when end since you need it on the other. Shuttles have helped for those companies that can afford it, but this is mostly a small number of extremely large and well-known companies (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc.).

    And bike share is no solution. BABS was poorly rolled-out down south and will be that way for the conceivable future.

    Until we create a comprehensive public transit and bike share system throughout the whole SF-SJ corridor, you can’t expect people to not have a bicycle on both ends. And until bikeshare becomes much, much more comprehensive, the solution for most bicyclists will always be bringing their bicycle on-board.

    “It also allows Caltrain to focus on what they should be doing best: moving people.”

    That’s right, but you’re being disingenuous since Caltrain, as a government agency, simply cannot neglect people’s *full* commute which includes the “last mile” problem. It’s not just about moving people on Caltrain, but on both ends as well. Caltrain cannot operate in a vacuum and pretend this issues doesn’t matter. And when you consider the journey to/from the station, it is massively beneficial to society to have people walking and bicycling for these trips rather than taking motorized transit.



    As much as I appreciate the increase in bike capacity, bathrooms (preferably in every car so people can get to them!) are much more important. Especially since I’ve been stuck on the train for over 3hrs due to incidents on the track (luckily both times I happened to be on Bombardier trains, which had bathrooms in every car).


    Upright Biker

    Which is why there’s such a shortage of parking in North Beach. People just can’t stand the disruptiveness of it all.



    Not wanting a single restroom because it won’t be accessible to disabled riders in other cars is absurd. Make sure the restroom is accessible to disabled riders in one car and provide adequate information to riders as to where it is located. Disabled riders can still board and ride in any car, but passengers who want to be close to the restroom can position themselves accordingly.

    Disabled riders could also change cars via the platform at stations to get to the restroom if they are otherwise unable to do so, and if they informed the conductor first, could get some extra time to make the move, given the rarity in which this will come up.

    And this is all assuming all disabled riders won’t be able to travel to the restroom, which is something we don’t know because we don’t know the train design yet.


    Marven Norman

    Seriously, bikes over bathrooms? That’s preposterous. Caltrain should start by finally taking a bold step that should been done a long time ago: institute a bike surcharge. That money can be added to the $3mn seed money to significantly expand the bike parking at stations into something useful. Even alone, that money would buy over 8500 Velopa Easylift+ racks (or similar) or even more of less fancy versions. They should also definitely tap into cap & trade funds and insist that any station rebuilds for CAHSR include far more bike parking spots than are currently available and that those spots be in enclosed facilities with security.

    I’ll be the first to admit that I am not really aware of all the fine points of bike parking situation at Caltrain stations, but considering that CityLab recently gushed over a Dutch bike parking facility at a train station that is barely average compared to other new ones, I think it’s safe to say that anything remotely similar even on the drawing board here in America would still be talked about. But while Utrecht works on a 12k spot garage, I haven’t heard of anything remotely similar being worked on in the Bay Area. The closest thing that I could find is the Berkeley Bike Station, which has 18x fewer spaces than the new garages at Delft, Rotterdam, Utrecht, etc.

    Also, the Bay Area has the potential to be one of the few areas in the country where promoting BiTiBi commutes without everyone having to tote a bike along can still be viable in relatively short order thanks to Bay Area Bike Share. BABS can be expanded and improved by establishing the station parking as bike share access points (like the Dutch OV-fiets system), greatly reducing frustration of a full dock and also keeping more bikes available. It also allows Caltrain to focus on what they should be doing best: moving people.


    Mountain Viewer

    Doesn’t BART also disallow bike on board when car is full?


    Andy B from Jersey

    Dude! Really?!!? No bathrooms on trains?!?! Even though I wrote the book on how to make NJ TRANSIT more bike friendly, shoving more and more bikes on to Caltrain is not the solution. Go buy a Brompton!





    If I were in a real pinch, I could get off BART, go take a leak, and get on another train 15 minutes later. That’s not the case for Caltrain. Granted Caltrain should have the same nominal frequency as BART, but Caltrain also has some pretty popular stations where adding bathrooms would be a stretch – Lawrence, Cal Ave, etc…



    Without bathrooms – it might as well be a bus. Seriously. I can stomach no bar car – but no bathroom is a joke.



    Current situation: Taxi service is controlled by a bunch of small-time “millionaire” bozos in every single city

    Future situation: Taxi service is controlled by a global monopolist “uber” corporation.

    This is literally what you want.

    Also, short-term thinkers can’t understand that the “low prices, great service” thing is entirely VC subsidized until they can run said small-timers out of business. Once Uber wins, it will be the same immigrants and otherwise unemployable assholes, with the bonus that you’ll be someone’s dubiously maintained old Camry instead of a commercial vehicle.


    Bob Gunderson

    That would explain the plunge in tourism, profits from hotels & resaurants, and even housing prices. No one can get here or wants to be here because of the nightmare you describe. Can’t wait for your citations that prove this point!



    Apparently, they did. In a later story the Caltrain board went with more bike apace and no restrooms.



    Opening the existing restrooms at train stations along the peninsula would greatly reduce the need for restrooms onboard the trains. Right now, some people have an hour bus ride combined with an hour train ride. A restroom at the train station could make this trip tolerable.


    Michael Mathews

    Some of us are working on petitions and other ways to get word to the board that we are not okay with a zero option.


    Michael Mathews

    A friend of mine was suggesting the same experiment on Twitter.

    This is not about failure to plan ahead, this is about unforeseen and uncontrollable situations that happen far too often.

    I have a commute that is minimum one hour 45 minutes, and is well over 2.5 hours if I have to take a local because connecting service is infrequent and often badly timed. I have exceeded three hour commutes more times than I can count (this is ONE WAY).

    I also often have to choose between stopping at the bathroom at work versus catching the light rail which is timed for the Caltrain I prefer. Knowing there is a bathroom on the train takes care of that problem.

    Finally, the two stations that actually have bathrooms are not available for all service hours. SJ closes around 10 pm; which is when many Sharks game end. SF is also closed when you pull in on later night locals, as are all the nearby businesses. I don’t think local businesses should provide restrooms for transit users.


    Andy Chow

    It was probably Ed Lee’s office staged this coup. Tom Nolan a month ago made a plea for restroom while the original recommendation was no restroom, and now he flip-floped because he was told because that single restroom may not necessarily be accessible to disabled riders in other cars, no one else should have access to it.

    The San Mateo County members are not favor of the sudden change in bike capacity, because it will be San Mateo County riders who are most likely to stand in favor of space for someone to store their property.

    3 million may just seed money for better bike access, but each bike space onboard can go $20-30k. You can buy at least 5-6 elockers at this price and buy someone a 2nd bike.