Today’s Headlines

  • Falling Trees Seriously Injure One Man, Damage Muni Wires and Several Cars  (KTVU, SFBay, ABC)
  • Sup. Kim Looks to Ban Tour Bus Drivers From Also Narrating After Pedestrian Death at City Hall (CBS)
  • More On-Street Car-Share Parking Spaces Roll Out in Hayes Valley (Hoodline)
  • USF Political Science Prof: SF Voters Must Support Their Transit-First Priorities With Solutions (SFGate)
  • “Carma” Allows Bay Bridge Commuters to Casual Carpool Through an App (CBS)
  • More on the Study to Look at Cheaper Bike/Ped Path on West Span of Bay Bridge (KQED)
  • San Jose Police to Increase Traffic Enforcement Focused on Pedestrian Safety (NBC)
  • Cupertino Parents Continue Push for Safer Streets After Teen Was Killed on Bike by Big Rig Driver (NBC)
  • Palo Alto Council Wants Higher Transit Tax on 2016 Ballot in Santa Clara County (Biz Times)
  • Caltrain Won’t Need to Be Run by SamTrans After Contractual Ownership Expires in 2016 (GC)
  • Free Shuttle Begins Service in South SF, Thanks to Grant from San Mateo County (SF Examiner)
  • SMART Moves Toward 2016 Opening With Work on Tracks, Bridges, Tunnels  (Marin IJ)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • aslevin

    The contractual term for SamTrans to run Caltrain has expired already, but requires a year’s notice to execute a change.

  • murphstahoe

    So the one example of two transit agencies being combined in the whole bay area is going to end. I think that’s the opposite of what one would wish for…

  • jonobate

    I don’t think so at all. SamTrans have not exactly excelled at running Caltrain. This could be an opportunity to create a truely integrated regional rail system, with timed transfers and a unified fare structure, by passing management over to BART.

    Note that this does not mean replacing Caltrain with broad-gauge ‘BART’ tracks and trains, which would be a step backwards.

  • aslevin

    Unfortunately, the amount of connectivity between SamTrans and Caltrain is minuscule. There are two boards, and they manage the services for different customer bases and goals, despite sharing staff.

  • Andy Chow

    What does it mean by excel at running Caltrain? Caltrain has a pretty ambitious upgrade program and has doubled its ridership in 10 years without system extension.

    Timed transfer (actually more like a policy to hold trains for a late BART) and integrated fares (it shouldn’t be only on Caltrains part) would alone somehow make a difference? 10 years ago, there was no need for an upgrade for fast pass holders to ride BART in SF. 10 years ago, BART plus ticket was good for most local bus system connecting with BART. Now it is much for costly. On the other hand, Caltrain monthly passes are still good on SamTrans and VTA.

  • Flubert

    Jonobate, why do you think that BART tracks and trains are inferior to CalTrain?

    It seems to this casual user of both systems that BART is faster, more frequent, has a broader network and a more secure source of funding. Theoretical top speeds are similar although CalTrain can rarely get to such speeds because of the frequency of stops.

  • jonobate

    As things stand, BART is better than Caltrain, but it has little to do with the tracks.

    BART trains are faster (more precisely, they accelerate and decelerate quicker) because they are electric multiple units rather than diesel locomotives + cars, and also because they have an automated control system. In less than 10 years Caltrain will be also be running electric multiple units on an automated control system, and the two systems will be very similar in terms of performance. Caltrain will actually become better than BART as they’ll still have the ability to run express trains, which BART does not.

    Everything else you mention is related to regional transit politics and agency culture rather than technology. Caltrain could already run more frequent off-peak service if they had the funding to do so, and if they thought it was important. They don’t have stable funding because the regional political consensus for decades has been to expand BART rather than inprove Caltrain. And creating a broader network is exactly why I want to see Caltrain and BART combined together; you’d essentially be adding a Peninsula Line to the BART system, without any capital cost.

    The shorter answer is that even if replacing Caltrain with BART from San Jose to SF did provide better service than an upgraded Caltrain, the ~$40B it would cost would be much better spent on other projects. You could build a new Transbay tube plus new BART lines under Geary and through Alameda for that sort of money.

  • jonobate

    SamTrans rely on outside consultants and contractors for everything related to Caltrain, as they don’t have enough in-house experience. This results in huge cost overruns and schedule delays – electrification and CBOSS are each costing twice what they other agencies spend on similar projects, and should have been done decades ago. Another delay and cost increase to the electrification project was announced just last week!

    Timed transfers are massively important. If I’m in the Mission on an evening or a Sunday and need to get to Berkeley, it’s easy, even though there are no direct trains. But if I need to get to San Mateo, I have to factor in a 0-60 minute wait at Millbrae, because of the infrequent untimed transfer. Most people will just drive instead.

    Seems to me that your focus is on defending Caltrain from having to work with anyone else (BART, HSR) rather than figuring out how transit agencies could be working together better to get people where they need to go.

  • murphstahoe

    Caltrain doubled ridership in 10 years despite themselves, not because of themselves. As ridership was increasing, they CUT service. They threatened to cut service drastically to commute hours only no weekends. Don’t confuse the demand caused by the debacle that is US-101 with supply created by excellent service.

    And now, the trains are breaking down *DAILY*. I only ride it once a week and have yet to be on time – even after Caltrain padded the schedules and defined “on time” as within 5 minutes. Note that Caltrain supposedly takes 5 minutes to go from 4th to 22nd Street but 7 minutes the other way, the same effect happens at Diridon. They then measure on time performance only at the (padded) end of the line, not how late they are at intermediate stations.

    If they were doing an excellent job Caltrain would not be going from crisis to crisis.

  • murphstahoe

    What? This is completely backwards.

    BART tracks and trains are inferior to Caltrain because they are non-standard. This means that BART runs into procurement problems and long lead times. Caltrain has decided to run longer trains – so they just bought some extra rolling stock from LA.

    BART is not faster. Caltrain is faster.

    At peak hours, Caltrain runs at higher frequency (5 trains per hour) than BART goes on the spur lines (4 per hour). The secure source of funding is a political issue.

    Caltrain can rarely get to such speeds because of the frequency of stops? There are 4 stops in SF within a total distance of 2 miles. And every BART train stops at every BART stop – Caltrain runs express trains – enabled because Caltrain has passing tracks that BART does not.

  • Flubert

    I believe the theoretical top speed of a BART train is 80mph. I’ve watched the speedometer on BART going under the Bay and they regularly hit 70mph.

    Now, admittedly that’s a perfect situation with several miles and no stops. But the suburban stops can be a few miles apart, although obviously not in SF or Oakland.

    I just looked at the CalTrain schedule and there are 21 stops between SF and SJ. That’s a distance of about 40 miles so there is a stop every 2 miles. What is the maximum speed that a CalTrain train can reach with that many stops and starts?

    Yeah, I know that not every train makes every stop. But I have to believe that the average speed of the average BART train is faster than an equivalent CalTrain. And of course CalTrain drops me off a mile from where most people want to be, at lest pending HSR which will probably never happen.

    And yes, BART is non-standard but Cal-Train is over-engineered, and cannot easily be under-grounded the way BART is.

    Both systems are flawed but BART seems a better Bay-Area wide solution, which is presumably why BARt always gets the money for extensions.

  • jonobate

    Maximum speed is far less important than average speed, which is much more closely related to how long your journey will take. Let’s stay focused on what matters to passengers. (For what it’s worth, Caltrain’s top speed is 79 mph, similar to BART’s.)

    Average speed is largely determined by acceleration times. BART trains are much better than Caltrain in that regard, but once Caltrain is electrified, the new trains will be just as quick to accelerate as BART trains, if not faster. The new BART trains will have similar acceleration rates to the old ones. You need to be comparing how Caltrain will look in 10 years to how BART will look in 10 years once both agencies have completed their current projects, as any theoretical project to replace Caltrain with BART would take place more than 10 years in the future.

    I agree that Caltrain sucks as it is right now, but replacing it with BART is the wrong solution.

  • murphstahoe

    The speed of trains is mostly a function of the curvature of the tracks. Take your watch and see how fast BART goes from West Oakland to downtown where the tracks have a series of turns – slows to a crawl.

    BART might drop you off in downtown SF but most of the origin stations are in freeway medians near nothing. Every Caltrain station is in a fairly dense residential/retail/office section. Saying Caltrain is not near Google is like saying BART is not near USF.

    BART has the money because it started that way – it was originated as a highly funded government agency. Caltrain just took over the SP passenger service without a solid funding plan

  • Andy Chow

    The proposed service cut at the time was a response to shortfall from local taxes and a significant funding cut from the state (which it was trying to fill budget gap of its own). We averted that by bring in one time funds from different sources.

    We no longer have that problem since revenues have been restored at many levels. But if the politics are not transit supportive, it wont be enough (see the huge transit cut in Seattle, which just occured last month).

    101 may still be jamed, but since 2000, the freeway is wider.

  • Andy Chow

    There are consultants at other agencies as well as they are hired to some one time tasks and can move on once the project is done.

    The reality is that the cost will rise overtime. The cost was updated 5 years ago before the most recent one. What about other projects like the Bay Bridge replacement which costs continue to rise during construction.

    As for the transfer, you should know that both BART and Caltrain both run on a schedule that has been largely on effect for years. So what is the specific gap that is longer than 20 minutes? People can always take an earlier train to avoid transfer thats too tight. Millbrae is complex since people have to walk up and down and unless they have Clipper they will have to spend time to get tickets.

    I dont think Caltrain doesn’t want to work with anyone else but there should be realistic expectation of what can be done.