Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tell Caltrain - switch weekend service to Bullets/Limited Service

I'm going to go to the next JPB meeting the first Thursday in September (10 AM, San Carlos at the SamTrans/Caltrain Headquarters near the San Carlos train station) to make the case that instead of cutting all weekend service, they should go to a limited schedule, reducing overall runtimes at the cost of some stops losing service.

The spiel from Caltrain on service cuts and fare increases can be found here

On the chopping block are Gilroy service, midday service, early AM and late night service, and weekends.

I suspect Gilroy is in big trouble, ridership there cratered once the 101 expansion was complete. Midday service and the AM/night service cannot be cut without crippling the system - I for one could not risk taking an AM Caltrain and be put in a situation where I could not get home for the next several hours, or where I could not work late. I am sure I am not alone.

The service in the balance is the weekends. Caltrain's latest ridership numbers show ~39,000 weekday boardings, ~11,000 Saturday boardings, and ~7400 Sunday boardings. It is cheaper to run the weekend service as a whole since there are fewer trains, but the rails are still open and crews are in place.

My proposal to Caltrain is that they run a limited/express service on the weekends. This will increase ridership much the same way that similar service had this impact on weekday ridership. The cost to run the train, if scheduled properly, could be lowered - the fuel costs of stopping and starting the train are eliminated, and there is the potential to run fewer trainsets - reducing labor costs.

I think that Caltrain should at least consider this option. But they won't respond to one person showing up to a Public Comment meeting - we all think that we are the Oracle of Delphi but it just doesn't work that way. I want to show up to that meeting with the ability to tell Caltrain that others are of like mind. So I have set up an online petition for people to sign onto this idea - I'll bring the signatures to the JPB meeting.

My petition can be found here - Caltrain Weekend Bullet Petition

I realize that losing that local service will be a painful experience for people who have used the local service - many of whom are transit dependent. However - those people will have NO train option if Caltrain cuts Weekend service. There is substitute service on the Caltrain Corridor from VTA and SamTrans. Apparently Caltrain thinks that is sufficient - the head of SamTrans is the same person who runs Caltrain, and the head of the VTA is on the Joint Powers Board that oversees Caltrain.



1 comment:

djconnel said...

I hope Caltrain's goal is to actually maximize ridership. Since costs scale with riders but their subsidy does not (directly), it's more profitable to cancel service, even with fairly full trains.

It's ironic that they'd consider cutting weekends altogether when their argument against weekend limited service has been their obligation to minor stops. But this goes back to the "ever stop is sacred" public feedback from when weekend service was reinstated after the rail expansion project which enabled the Baby Bullets. Everyone wants fast trains, but wants them to stop within 1 mile of home.

In my case, 22nd is 0.8 miles from home while 4th & Townsend is 1.3. On the work side, Cal Ave is 0.3 miles from work, Palo Alto is 1.8 miles, Menlo Park is 3.4 miles, San Antonio is 3.4 miles, and Mountain View is 5.3 miles (as Google rides). That's two at home, and five at work stations within a 30 minute ride. Considering a BB would save close to 30 minutes from my trip into the City, with the possible exception of Mountain View which is a wash, boarding any of these stations would be a win versus my local (CA Ave-22nd) station with local service.

My situation is fairly positive, but then I pick where to live, and was able to influence where I work, such that I have access to transit. Most people wouldn't choose to live or work where there isn't access to automobile roads. Including transit in a location decision isn't so radical an idea.

Okay -- enough from me.