Archive for October, 2008

Weekend Baby Bullet

One thing I would love to see is Caltrain running the Baby Bullet trains on weekends. Today, Caltrain runs only local trains (with stops at Atherton and Broadway) hourly on weekends. If Baby Bullet trains were provided on weekends, it would attract a lot of riders who normally don’t commute to San Francisco and otherwise take advantage of the Baby Bullet service.

In addition, I also see the weekend Baby Bullet as a way to get more political support for Caltrain. The fact is that most commuters (voters) travel locally and wouldn’t be able to take advantage of Caltrain on a daily basis. For them, their weekend experience on Caltrain is a make or break deal. Unfortunately, Caltrain only offers the least attractive service on weekends.

What prevents Caltrain from providing weekend Baby Bullet service? Caltrain’s answer is that it needs the weekend work window to accomodate construction. Caltrain has a long list of construction projects coming, from platform reconstruction to electrification. Because Caltrain is an active railroad, these construction can only proceed when trains don’t run as often in high speed.

Even so, I believe there are opportunities for some limited weekend express service. From a revenue and a political standpoint, it is a win-win. Despite the upcoming construction projects, weekend Baby Bullet does not require new taxes or a 10-year wait.


October 7, 2008 at 8:38 pm 3 comments

Both sides deserve some criticisms

Sometimes I feel like I need to stay away from that controversy between bicyclists, who want easy bike access on every train, and Caltrain, which is facing various political and operational challenges. On the other hand, I feel both sides deserve criticisms because such a distraction hampers Caltrain’s ability to get the upgrade it needs for the future.


  • Just to be honest here, some people will choose to park their bikes if more safer parking is provided at stations.
  • Also to be honest here, some folks will take advantage of a folding-bike subsidy if it is provided. Remember this is commuting, not some kind of a bicycle outing or a race. Caltrain shouldn’t be designing the bicycle program around those who only want to take their $5000 bikes between their homes and their offices. Remember, there are those who commute with K-Mart bikes and generally they are not as vocal as others are.
  • Some bicyclists feel that they’ve a special privilege because they believe the bicycle program has saved Caltrain. Regardless, Caltrain is still the most bicycle accessible rail system in the country with no surcharge, permits, or peak hour restrictions.


  • Caltrain should strive for consistent bicycle capacity. 16-bike limit on some Bombardier trains is not acceptable, and that gets the most criticisms. Every Bombardier trains should have two bike cars for fairness sake.
  • Bike rack design on Bombardier cars wastes space and the idea of a flow doesn’t work with the current rack design. Caltrain should look at ACE, who also operate Bombardier cars. ACE puts the bike racks on one side of the car and all seats on the other side. That leaves more room for bikes to move around. Caltrain could easily increase capacity from 16 to 20 by just rearranging racks on these cars.
  • With the gallery cars, Caltrain should consider relocating the second bike car closer to the first car, as well as providing clear signs in front of the train indicating a second bike car. Unlike most other rail systems, Caltrain experiences unususally long dwell times at station, which increase overall travel time and decrease average speed. Bicyclists crowding on the first car, and with some running to the second car, only worsen the situation.

No one is truly right and no one is truly wrong here. It is just too much political bickering. With the approval of a bike parking plan, both sides should be working on practical solutions to reduce bumping and get the upgrade Caltrain needs in the long run.

October 3, 2008 at 5:48 pm 3 comments

Caltrain board to consider fare increases

Tomorrow Caltrain will decide to increase the base fare by 25 cents. Because Caltrain is still collecting more fare revenue is projected, Caltrain put the other fare proposal, which would increase the base and per zone fares by 25 cents, off the table.

October 2, 2008 at 5:38 am Leave a comment

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