Caltrain Plans Big Expansion, BART’s Earthquake Upgrade, and Geary Breaks Ground

A rendering of one of Caltrains electric train sets, now under construction. Image: Caltrain
A rendering of one of Caltrains electric train sets, now under construction. Image: Caltrain

Big plans and one major transit milestone kick off the weekend in this Streetsblog transit news round-up.

Caltrain with three times the riders?

Caltrain is forging ahead with its electrification project, with the first electric passenger service expected to start in 2022. So what’s after that? The agency is currently developing its new business plan, and it is anticipating a whopping increase in service and customers.

From the Caltrain release:

…projections of potential future demand show that by 2040 as many as 250,000 customers would want to ride the train if service were frequent and abundant – a nearly 300 percent increase over the number of passengers carried by the system today.

Right now Caltrain carries about 62,000 riders each weekday, but that is expected to increase dramatically when electrification is completed and the trains are extended to the Salesforce Transit Center in downtown San Francisco. But the evolving business plan is also assuming the addition of more frequent off-peak service, clock-face schedules, and timed transfers with other transit systems to make it a more useful service, especially outside of morning and evening rush hour. Looking at the number of cars on the freeways and the ridership BART captures off-peak, Caltrain officials think they can increase ridership dramatically as they add and improve service.

Still, 250,000 riders seems hard to imagine for Caltrain, considering the busiest single commuter rail line in the country, the New Haven Line out of Grand Central Terminal in New York, only carries 125,000 weekday riders, and it has three branches. But with the rapid growth of the Bay Area and the addition of high-speed rail, who knows?

Image: USGS
Image: USGS

BART upgrades seismic safety with ‘Shake Alert’ test

On Monday, Oct. 8, between 11 and 11:15 a.m., all BART trains will slow to 27 mph, in a demonstration of ShakeAlert 2.0, the latest iteration of the earthquake warning system used to slow the system’s trains in the event of a significant temblor.

From the release:

BART was one of the first organizations to test ShakeAlert 1.0, and has been slowing or stopping trains in advance of expected shaking for a couple of years. Monday’s demonstration and press conference mark the formal rollout of a revised version – ShakeAlert 2.0 – which was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, UC Berkeley, California Institute of Technology, University of Washington, and University of Oregon in partnership with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to provide up to tens of seconds of advance warning that the ground will begin shaking: enough time for people to drop, cover and hold on, or take other protective action.

The alert system data will also be made available to “all Bay Area businesses, utilities, and app developers.” BART is planning a press event/news conference, with reporters and politicos invited to ride one of its new “fleet of the future” trains during the demonstration. That train will depart MacArthur BART at around 11 am bound for Richmond and will be one of the trains slowed to 27 mph during the test.

Now, barring any real earthquakes, when will BART have enough confidence in the new trains to allow them to run through the Transbay tube to San Francisco? A spokesman for BART said no dates have been set.

Geary rendering from SFMTA.
Geary rendering from SFMTA.

The Geary Rapid Project finally breaks ground

A subway under Geary! No. Light rail? Nope. Full Bus Rapid Transit with dedicated, center-running lanes down the length of Geary? No, not even that. Nevertheless, after decades of planning the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency finally broke ground this week on its Geary Rapid Project, a plan to enhance part of the street and upgrade bus service on the 38.

From the SFMTA release:

The project, on Geary and O’Farrell between Stanyan and Market streets, aims to bring much-needed safety improvements and more reliable bus service to one of San Francisco’s busiest corridors. 54,000 daily customers rely on the 38 Geary and 38R Geary Rapid.

The agency also writes that the first set of transit and pedestrian safety improvements will take about four to six weeks. They include nearly two new miles of transit-only lanes “on most blocks between Stanyan and Gough streets.” New bicycle markings will also be painted to help cyclists cross Geary at Webster, Steiner, and Masonic.


Longer Trains May Be No Match for Growing Caltrain Crowds

Caltrain’s rush hour trains have never been more crowded, which isn’t just uncomfortable for riders — it also discourages potential commuters who instead drive along Peninsula highways, and makes rides more difficult for elderly passengers and riders with disabilities. Commuters could see some relief in 2015, when Caltrain plans to extend the length of some of […]

Caltrain and High-Speed Rail Pursue Level Boarding, Compatible Platforms

Correction 10/8: Caltrain and the CAHSRA haven’t agreed to create a joint specification for train cars, but will explore options for platform compatibility. Officials representing Caltrain and the California High-Speed Rail Authority recently announced that they’ll work closely together over the next several months to explore what options are available from train car manufacturers to allow for level […]

Caltrain Service Cuts Could Be Mitigated With New MTC Plan

Communities from San Francisco to San Jose may be saved from much of the expected crippling Caltrain service cuts. A new Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) plan being developed could make up much of the agency’s budget deficit for the next two years, said MTC Public Information Officer John Goodwin. A large chunk of the coming […]