Thursday, February 17, 2011

Caltrain cuts. Unacceptable.

I'm going to San Carlos to spit in the wind tonight.

Caltrain cannot cut *anything*.

A large number of people who take the train do not do so by coincidence. They structured their lives the way they have precisely because the train exists. I live in San Francisco and work in Sunnyvale solely because of the train - roughly as the schedule exists today.

The proposed schedule will not suit my needs. Taking a bike on board will become an exercise in folly, the sum capacity of trains will not fill overall demand and one could find themselves bumped off the last train - stranded. My company runs a shuttle to the proposed to be closed Lawrence Station. They could switch to Sunnyvale, but the shuttle cannot make a round trip in under the 30 minute headway of trains, meaning only 1 shuttle per hour for my company. The only VTA connection is from Santa Clara - also on the chopping block. Missing a train in SF by 1 second would cost me 1 hour - or an entire day of work - and with MUNI's unpredictability, the padding in my schedule would be intolerable. I would have to abandon the train, removing a critical block in my lifestyle. I would be forced to move, and I would not be alone.

If and when Caltrain recovered their funding, they would find that a substantial portion of their ridership is lost forever, having made changes in their lifestyle that rendered Caltrain obsolete. Potential new riders would not be groomed during the down time - residences near Belmont or Burlingame train station would attract solely people who have no interest in public transport. It could take decades to rebuild what was in place.

One could argue that we would be better served if the ridership moved closer to work. This could be true - but I won't be moving to Sunnyvale. I will be moving to Portland or Boulder and taking my tax dollars and job creating entrepreneurship along with me. It would be a big loss if the next Jerry Yang or Larry Page decided to attend MIT instead of Stanford due to the Bay Area's lack of dedication to what could be a great mass transit system. We are uniquely prepared for the future because we have in place a better skeleton of transit than most of the US - let's not throw that away over pennies.


djconnel said...

Ironically Cara has a 7 am appointment near Cal Ave tomorrow and she's going to drive, because the earliest train after 5:25 am gets her there @ 7:01 am. With the proposed schedule, she has a 5:45 am option which gets her there in plenty of time to visit the bagel shop, or a 6:00 which gets to Palo Alto @ 6:48, just in time to ride the 1.5 miles or so. Miss that and she gets the 6:15 which takes her to Cal Ave @ 7:02, slightly late.

Result: 80 mile car trip spared.

I'm not saying the new schedule is great, but fast trains early is very nice.

murphstahoe said...

Well, the answer of course is get enough money to run a proper service including faster early trains, and see ridership go way up. This requires the thinking that each person who rides the train saves "X" tax dollars that would be spent elsewhere, ergo the system really does "pay for itself".

At dinner last night I said to a dinner companion who does take the train to SF - "what happens if you need to come home early, say Sam is rushed to the hospital". Answer - take a cab. That's $100 back to Palo Alto. I would hate that but live with it. For a decent percentage of the ridership it would be a showstopper.

ammon said...

We're spoiled at Apple: any emergency cab ride from work to home or place of emergency is covered in full. With shuttles connecting SF, Santa Cruz, San Jose, ACE, and Caltrain there's not much reason to drive.