Skip to content

Recent Comments



    I didn’t discuss reverse peak service in my OP because capacity isn’t an issue yet. The problem is poor service to all stops that aren’t SF/22nd Street/Millbrae/Palo Alto/Mtn View. Frankly, the RP timetable is just inoptimal and needs to be rewritten: the timed transfers and perhaps the Baby Bullets don’t make a lot of sense, since there’s no point for any train south of RWC to run express (maybe skip a few points, but definitely not a Palo Alto – Santa Clara stretch). Quick fixes would include the following:

    - 208, 218, 228 need to make a lot more stops. California Ave, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale would probably add at least 500 new riders.

    - 206, 216, 226 trains need to stop at RWC and California Ave.

    Likewise the traditional peak timetable has to be rewritten at some point, but I didn’t nuke it yet because 4 of 5 trains have lots of riders and at this point it’s more important to redistribute loads properly to try to reduce station dwell times as much as possible (though the only way to truly fix this is to buy cars with more doors and install high-level platforms).

    I also agree that Sunnyvale, RWC, and Mountain View must be served by every single train. I didn’t do that for traditional peak service right now because I’m worried massive overcrowding will occur between Mtn View and Palo Alto. In the medium term (pre-electrification), I think NB baby bullet service needs to be standardized at SJ – Sunnyvale – Mtn View – Palo Alto – RWC – Hillsdale – SF; San Mateo and Millbrae can be served by all limited service trains meanwhile. SB baby bullet service is ultimately a flawed concept, but SF – 22nd St – Millbrae – RWC – Palo Alto – Mtn View – (maybe Sunnyvale) – SJ would be the standard stops.

    Here is an example quick fix schedule using your timetable tool.



    I think those two @ Market & Castro are the only ones left. We’re making great progress.

    Wouldn’t it be great to have a couple signature buildings framing the head of Market Street in the place of those gas stations!



    You know all this, yet it keeps happening. Useless.



    I don’t have a point of view that I am trying to confirm. I seek information and draw conclusions from that.

    Your writing indicates that you have a conclusion and are trying to produce arguments to support that conclusion.

    For example “asking working and poor folks what they think about 4.25 an hour parking on Sunday”. This argument is made up out of thin air because all of the research shows that the majority of SF residents overall, and specifically the poorer amongst us – DO NOT HAVE A CAR TO PARK – no matter what the price. If the working and poor are your concern, you should be campaigning for free MUNI on Sunday, not free meters.


    Darko Vukovic

    Worst part about this is that we will probably see the new tech bubble pop before any of the large improvements take place.



    One reason why there’s no good replacement for BoB is asymmetrical trip patterns, i.e. anything other than the typical A-B, B-A commute day. I ride Caltrain daily but almost never have an A-B, B-A Caltrain ride so bike lockers would not help at all. BABS has a chance of helping but they’d need to expand 10-20X larger in the south bay to make it viable for my daily routing. Same goes for ordinary VTA transit.

    My commute style is probably the minority but even A-B, B-A commuters will have an odd day when they need to visit the dentist or handle some other errand. This is one of the reasons so many Bay Area residents have a hard time getting rid of their car: the alternatives are often too rigid to meet ordinary travel needs. Bicycling on the other hand is just as flexible as driving. Caltrain and BART BoB tend to function as a “bicycling amplifiers”. Those BoB programs are awesome and should be expanded.



    Now, if only we could get rid of that Chevron–what the hell was the city thinking, allowing gas stations anywhere on Market St?


    Richard Mlynarik

    Agreed, but my understanding was that they literally can’t fit any more trains on the right-of-way during rush hour.

    And yet … and yet … 22 departures an hour from Embarcadero to West Oakland, today, on one single pair of tracks, by trains. That’s not even an exotic foreign not-applicable-to-special-magic-US-specific-conditions example.


    So it’s doesn’t seem to be “the right of way” that is the problem.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s the grotesquely under-achieving operator of SF—SJ trains and their 19th century olde tyme “commuter railroading” mindset and their enthusiasm for spending billions of your tax dollars over decades while never actually managing to deliver improved service?



    Agreed. Caltrain’s infrequent mid-day service makes the system all but useless for me personally, despite my willingness to try and make it work repeatedly. My latest attempt this Wednesday is a case in point.

    Transit 511′s trip planner gave me an incorrect departure time for a southbound train to South San Francisco–and that’s not Caltrain’s fault. I arrived at the station as my train pulled out. I’ve had this happen to me before when using Boston’s suburban commuter rail lines, and I knew I’d have to wait a while.

    But my wait wasn’t going to merely be an inconvenience–the next train serving South SF wouldn’t depart for roughly and hour and a half! I wouldn’t be able to make my appointment. Game over.

    I rode my bike to Embarcadero BART, and rode the last mile(s) from that station. After my appointment, I missed the hourly northbound train–and simply rode my bike the 12 miles home from there. I made it home more quickly than if I’d waited an hour for the train and then rode home from the station. Caltrain Fail.



    You mean 40,000 daily boardings. But yes, you’re right–ridership has been slowly declining.


    Richard Mlynarik

    Piss away $250 million to corrupt rent-seeking scumbags to get worse service much?

    Three choices: public sector corruption doesn’t bother you, you’re on gravy train yourself, or you’re stupid. Choose one or more.


    Richard Mlynarik

    Sunnyvale (like California Avenue, Lawrence, Santa Clara, and others) has both good potential and had high ridership. It’s unquestionably underserved.

    See Peninsula Rail Corridor Census (nice summary in Figure 8) and “Baby Bullet Effect” and other well-researched articles linked from there.



    What i don’t see here, is anyone arguing the opposing point of view. There is some blind spot here that doesn’t acknowledge that these overblown parking fees, hurt working, poor and older folks. If this was just about turnover of spots, then the fees would not be so horrendous. If you have parking meters the spot “turns over” whether the fee is a dollar per hour or 5 an hour. My basic argument is that the streets are public property that were paid for by the citizens, and created for automobiles and other forms of transportation. The idea that it is just a few people with cars demanding special privileges to park, is, I think, not a fair representation of the facts. In SF more then 75% of homes have automobiles. The streets were built and paid for with tax dollars, specifically for public use of their own autos. By making parking more difficult and expensive, comes out of the notion that cars are bad and public transit is good. Sadly public transit in this town, is plain awful, and the entrenched powers keep it bad and overpriced for what they deliver is not changing any time soon. And taking aim against private autos when there is not really viable alternative for many is, I think, ill conceived.

    I still don’t see any clear proof that sunday parking is anything more then another money grab by the city. And I stick to my original point that it wouldn’t be necessary if the city didn’t waste our money in epic ways. Also from personal experience it is no easier finding a parking spot on Sunday’s to the places I used to shop then it is now. The only difference I see is that the outrageous prices make it not worthwhile to shop at the small places I used.

    I know this site is by and for people who have a different opinion then me. However I think it a bad and dangerous thing, when folks ban together with only one point of view and no dissent. I volunteer to be the dissenting point of view, and have no resistance to whatever criticism comes my way. How about asking working and poor folks what they think about 4.25 an hour parking on Sunday? One of my gripes is that I often see white, privileged kids taking up positions that supposedly help the poor and working class folks, but in fact do no such thing. Don’t get me started on rent control..


    Aaron Bialick

    Oops! Thanks.



    This I like, though I’m not so sure about SB AM trains stopping at Sunnyvale, I use it occasionally but Lawrence has a lot more ridership. Certainly this is in part because 2 trains/hour stop at Lawrence, one of which is skip-stop, but there really isn’t a lot of employment near SV compared to Lawrence.

    The largest contingent using Sunnyvale SB in the AM are bike riders who then ride past Lawrence on their way to work, in order to save the zone charge of going to Lawrence, the closest station to their destination. Which opens the discussion of eliminating the zone based fare structure since we have an electronic fare medium (of course since it’s so flawed and almost certainly has a zillion dollar change order cost, we’re screwed on that I suspect).


    yaritza castillo

    Ya well im one of the girls who got injured and ya it was a hard time but u guys need to stop jumping to cunclusions there was no cars when it was turning. The semi turned in the closest lane possible so learn ur facts first before u say anythinh



    The San Bernardino line has about twelve miles of single track that simply can’t be doubled. Well, not without stacking the second track above the first which would be a huge chunk of change. These are FRA trainsets, not light rail cars.



    Dude, hyperventilate much?



    66% of people can feel that gravity doesn’t exist but it doesn’t change the fact that it does and we need to proceed as if it does.



    The redesign/repaving funding isn’t from an econ dev budget. However, we can rightly be upset that the City (MOEWD) has just awarded at least $15K as an Invest in Neighborhoods Grant to the ringleaders of opposition to progress. What is that money going for? Street banners proclaiming, ‘Middle Polk, a village in the City.’


    Richard Mlynarik

    Metrolink is getting rid of perfectly serviceable and perfectly legal rail cars as a result of insane, irrational, non-economic, non-analytical, purely political/emotional “response” to the passenger fatalities in Glendale in 2005 and Chatsworth in 2008.

    Sadly, expect the same sort of insanity (“Something must be done! This here is something! Therefore this must be done!”) if and when Caltrain goes off the rails. But until then, we can land Metrolink cast-offs at fire sale prices.


    Richard Mlynarik

    Right on every point.

    1. No train in any direction at any time of day should skip Palo Alto. (Or Redwood City, or Mountain View for that matter. Or Sunnyvale.)

    3. Hayward Park needs to go, no question. Not only does it not have ridership and never will, not only does San Mateo have three stations within its modest city limits; not only is Hayward Park sited exactly where track curve realignment could have significant payoff; but most importantly the infinitely-deferred (because pissing away $180 million making San Bruno hugely worse, forever was more important to the negative-achievement cash-guzzling “carreers” of Caltrain’s staff and contractors) reconstruction and relocation of Hillsdale Station to the north would put Hillsdale station within sight of (and within walking distance of) Hayward Park.

    Of course, Caltrain’s genius “planners” plan exactly the opposite: make more trains stop at Hayward Park, because of some crazy backroom agreements with the city or something.

    America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals, at “work”.

    4. The over-serving of Millbrae is, as you know, purely political, driven by “intermodal” BART bullshit (never mind that you can’t pay people to take a slower ride with an extra fare; nothing is actually about riders, ever) rather than by demand.

    If and when we can ever get rid of the current crazy Caltrain “bullet” timetable clusterfuck (with a million different arbitrary stopping patterns and hour headways at peak hours) and move towards simple, regular, memorizeable, customer-friendly, connection-friendly, ridership-attracting rational timetables, then every train should stop of Millbrae, which is one of the highest-ridership stops.

    But in the current insane “bullet” timetable environment, no question that Millbrae station is over-served relative to other stations (Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Redwood City,

    A point you didn’t mention: every “reverse peak” (southbound AM northbound PM) train should stop at 22nd.



    Unfortunately the pattern for Caltrain has been to sit in a room and think of an answer and say “Voila! Here you go!” Sometimes part of the answer is right (Warm Planet) and sometimes it’s bogus (More racks at 22nd Street).

    I don’t think they’ve ever really sent someone out to collect data for “Why do you take your bike on board” even though it’s easy to gather up the focus group.

    The A/B pairing Adina posits is good. A bike at your origin end you use for other things is useful, a bike that mostly sits in a locker at the destination end is less useful – especially given Caltrain’s schedule that has different stop patterns. And when you say “bikeshare at their destination” that doesn’t just mean at the station – there has to be a dock at your *final* destination.

    Better shuttle service – sort of. My company makes massive use of the shuttles, but for a lot of my co-workers, if their schedule deviates a tiny bit, they drive, because the shuttle window is narrow and VTA is 2-3x the time (and a shuttle is 2x the time of biking!)


    Michael Mathews

    I was going to say: a cross-city ride on the N Judah often takes more than an hour and maybe you’ll get a seat if you get on at the first stop or two or stay on past Embarcadero.


    Michael Mathews

    This. My time is equally valuable to me at 7 am, 10 am, 2 pm and 5 pm.
    I will say this, during baseball season I won’t take any NB train earlier than 287 on a game night. It’s worth a slightly longer train ride to wait for one with a seat and far fewer noisy people. I wish there were more trains in mid day and the evening with a stopping pattern like 287.



    Gah! I hate speculation about questions for which there are answers. Caltrain should actually ask people who take bikes on the train why we do this, and which if any of the following options would enable them (us) to not bring the bike onboard and help uncrowd the trains: a) bikeshare at their destination b) reliable secure storage at their origin station c) leaving a cheap bike in a locker for the last mile d) better shuttle service to destination e) some other option f) need my own bike for other purposes with no good substitute



    The good news there is that Palo Alto is starting a Transportation Management Association which will have responsibility for analyzing the transportation needs of downtown workers and providing alternatives to driving and parking. You can provide a lot of discount transit passes and connecting shuttles for the tens of millions of dollars you’d need to spend on new garages. The TMAs in Palo Alto, and Mountain View, and San Mateo, and (probably) San Jose can’t control Caltrain service, but they can be much stronger advocates for better service because they will have data.


    Michael Mathews

    If the last time we drove south in the morning is any indication (10 days ago or so), traffic is considerably heavier than it was in 2004. The bad traffic conditions are what is driving people to switch to the train and the private buses.



    True this. Really sad the parking issues Palo Alto has – because their Noon-Nine retail workers really can’t make decent use of Caltrain.



    If only leadership could see “Well, I would never ride such a train, but by the time it’s running I’ll be dead, so that doesn’t matter. And when the bond payments kick in, I’ll be dead too, so that doesn’t matter. What would my grandchildren want?”

    Me, I’m going off to transplant a bunch of 1 foot high oak trees in the backyard. They will look really great 30 years after I die.



    What you’re describing is a classic chicken-and-egg problem. Of course nobody takes CalTrain during the day — you have to wait up to an hour to catch a train!

    Look at BART for a contrast. It’s also primarily aimed at commuters, but it’s always busy during the day because of the (relatively) frequent service.



    The extra capacity over 10tph total won’t be needed immediately. By the time High Speed Rail gets here (2029 if all goes perfectly, which it is not), the most vociferous opponents to improving track capacity will no longer be alive; millennials who prefer to drive less will be on city councils; and the world will be different.



    No, that may not be the case. Caltrain is foremost a commuter RR. It’s peak ridership occurs at the peak commute hours and the shoulders. I take mid-day trains back to Peninsula from SF. Yesterday, the young man in the adjacent seat remarked, “Are we the only ones on this train?” I answered that since we were in the second bike car, fourth from the station gates, most folks were sitting behind us….but his point was effective nonetheless.



    The freeway is by office parks and lower income neighborhoods – the freeway is causing asthma for those other people. Also I drive a Tesla so the pollution isn’t my fault. (impersonating the point of view I don’t agree with).



    It appears as though nearly every NB peak train in the morning is over capacity. While the entire schedule needs to be overhauled and more infrastructural improvements (electrification, level boarding) should be completed in the future, there are some quicker fixes that can be implemented in the meantime.

    - Easiest solution: 211, 221, and 231, which definitely have capacity, need to stop at Palo Alto. This will close a 30-minute gap in service there and divert riders from 217, 323, and 233.
    - Add another Bullet train in the 8am hour, which is almost guaranteed to accommodate 500 new riders.
    - More controversial: close Hayward Park, which can be accommodated by San Mateo and Hillsdale, both of which have superior service. This speeds up all local trains.
    - Even more controversial: Baby Bullets should consider skipping Millbrae. The primary purpose of the Baby Bullet trains should be to get riders to SF as fast and comfortable as possible; more riders disembark than embarking at Millbrae, which causes overcrowding on the stretches right before this stop. Replace with a stop at higher-running Sunnyvale, Mtn View, or RWC, all of which are adding riders faster than Millbrae.



    Right, that’s why as @thielges says Caltrain should get a dispensation to run extra trains before HSR gets here.


    Jeffrey Baker

    BABS-EB? Yesssssss!



    Nope. Nature abhors a vaccum, even on a road.



    Since HSR is years away, couldn’t Caltrain get an exception to run more trains until HSR starts running? And once HSR begins operations I’d expect it to absorb some of Caltrain’s commute load.



    *Rail work on San Jose Ave is for the M line.



    For planners, I think a remaining gulf to bridge is effectively communicating that convenience carries a cost – and that that (albeit very low) cost is worth it, particularly as it is effectively an investment in making every other mode work better. SFpark already has this message, but it will really take more to help the general public truly understand this relationship.



    Or really just needing a bike on one end of the ride. A lot of riders bring their bike on board despite a close destination on the other end just because of security.



    Between the doubling of caltrain ridership and the incredibly popular Google bus, I wonder if we are seeing any tangible reduction of car number on 101.



    Tom Nolan’s suburban politician mentality needs to be removed from the board and should have been removed long ago. His 20th century car first philosophy has no place on the MTA, and it’s time for him to go.



    Caltrain should install standing seats or back rests. Although no one likes a crowded ride, Caltrain could increase capacity if people were given an option to comfortably stand.



    Peninsula town don’t want a 4 tracks because they erroneously believe that it would be unsightly, separate neighborhoods, and lower property values. However, they would much rather have an 10-lane freeway in their backyards.



    I, like most everyone hates to pay for parking, but you just cant ignore the facts that SFpark works and demand based pricing benefits everyone. There is no requirement that people drive, and there will ALWAYS be demand in the neighborhoods with people looking for free parking. BUT for the people who are willing to park at a meter, they need turnover. I bet a lot of the immediate post metering traffic is with people in the neighborhood looking for a place to park all night, but that does NOTHING for the businesses. Traffic and lack of parking because people are looking to store their cars overnight detracts other people to drive into the neighborhood. Exactly the opposite of what the metered parking is there for.

    That said, there will be people who pay until enforcement ends, but there will be fewer, and it will generate revenue for the city. But when the price is right and limits are reasonable, people will not be bothered and will be able to have dinner without the hassles of driving in circles to find a place to park.

    I still recommend the benefits of taking transit, but that is not always an option, and well frankly it doesn’t make sense as the evening progresses, and sure gets costly when you could have carpooled just as easily.


    Richard Mlynarik

    CBOSS is purely a way to take $250+ million of your dollars ($250 million is just the start …) and give them to limitlessly corrupt agency insiders and contractors.


    The same piddling little signal project, undertaken anywhere else in the world, would cost half to a third as much.

    Ask yourself: what the FUCK is a tiny, infrequent, low-capacity, low-ridership, nowheresville little shuttle line like Caltrain doing inventing its own super-wonderful globally-unique signalling system, when entire continents full of passenger trains run by people who know what the fuck they are doing aren’t coming to San Carlos for advice.

    It’s like the Half Moon Bay harbormaster deciding that he needs to direct a cruise missile design and construction program because the special sensitive defense needs of western San Mateo County just can’t be addressed by anybody else.

    CBOSS It’s worse than insane. It’s criminal. And, as you see, it will not be delivering more trains, faster trains, more reliable trains, cheaper trains, cheaper to ride trains, or better trains. It will just be delivering hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of the most incompetent railroad contractors on the planet.



    Yes, but if it doesn’t go down and just keeps plodding along looking to finance and construct its way to the Peninsula piecemeal, it could easily take a decade or more during which it makes no sense to hobble Caltrain frequency for what may or will eventually someday be “blended” operation with HSR.


    Andy Chow

    Extra secure on-station bike storage will also help for those who can have a bike at each end of the ride.