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With a goal of having Caltrain electrified and redesigned train cars in service by 2019, a request for qualified contractors to express their interest in the project will be issued this month with contracts slated to be awarded in 2015.

A couple of stats from Caltrain’s latest customer survey: 40 percent of riders are between the age of 25 and 34 during the week (up from 36 percent in 2010); the average rider’s income is $117,000 (up from $104,000 in 2010); and 17 percent of weekday riders earn more than $200,000.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by fogmachine

    In my lifetime? Really?

  2. Posted by Steve

    It’s a Googletrain! Can we charge them extra to use our Caltrain depot?

  3. Posted by BigV

    I call Caltrain the “BrainTrain”
    it is awesome to look over a few shoulders and listen in on some conversations and notice the wide range of advanced math and neuroscience and computer science and other brainy topics that are being worked on.
    More academic papers are read on that train than newspapers.
    love it.

  4. Posted by mdg

    I dont know why Google doesn’t just buy everyone in SF a ticket on Caltrain – screw those busses and fix Caltrains budget woes in one fell swoop…
    I mean – Everyone loves a train….

  5. Posted by BigV

    Wish list for new trains: window shades
    every train in europe has them, they make inherent sense, yet caltrain lacks such a basic feature.

  6. Posted by Can't think of Cool Name

    If the goal is electrified trains by 2019, some(body) needs to step up and have a goal for the CalTrain tunnel from 4th & King to the Transbay Terminal completed by then as well.

  7. Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

    Outstanding news for one of the best public transit services on the Peninsula (really the only viable one to the city). Now if only they would let the express trains use the opposing direction tracks to pass the local trains while stopped at a station… like you see in Japan and elsewhere … we could have a sane schedule, say every 20-30 minutes, instead of trains coming at one or two odd times every hour … sometimes just a few minutes apart which makes no sense.

  8. Posted by sdhs

    @mdg
    Caltrain is not very convenient to get to Google’s campus in Mountain View. First you have to get to a Caltrain station in SF, then when you arrive you have to get from the Mountain View Caltrain station to the campus. The shuttles from the Caltrain station to campus get stuck in horrible surface street traffic around downtown Mountain View and negate any time advantage over 101.
    If you live directly by a Caltrain station in SF, it’s basically a wash time-wise, and that’s if everything is timed perfectly. For anywhere else in SF, it takes longer than the shuttles and costs more. I would gladly take Caltrain if they could move people from the Mountain View Caltrain station to Google more efficiently.
    But realistically, it’s the changes that kill you. At each change (Muni to Caltrain to Shoreline shuttle), you have to add some buffer time.

  9. Posted by mdg

    @SDHS
    I took Caltrain for years – to Sunnyvale. You are right that it’s a pain in the butt. But frankly all of the issues/pains/challenges you mention are all easily solvable….You just have to want to do it…
    I think having busses running on a fwy next to a high speed rail (Well, sorta high speed…the Bbay bullets run 80 mph) is silly.
    my two cents
    cheers
    mdg

  10. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    I actually hope this will earn the nickname “Google train”. Then maybe those reactionary losers who like to protest and vandalize things will step onto the tracks and try to stop them.

  11. Posted by chriso

    The most ridiculous are the tech buses that leave from 4th and Townsend in SF. If you can get to 4th/Townsend to catch your bus, then you obviously could get there to catch Caltrain. The tech shuttles should be banned from having a stop within 3/4 mile of the SF Caltrain stops and just run shuttles from whatever stop on the peninsula they are closest to.

  12. Posted by Markklinnllik

    The Caltrain is pretty much at capacity. If 4-5k additional tech people got on every morning it would overload the system.
    Remember 4-5k each way, would mean 8-10k new riders.
    Already you have people sitting in stairwells, on the floors, in luggage racks, etc.
    And… they can’t add new trains because the tracks are at capacity. They announced they would try to add one, but that’s it.

  13. Posted by caltrain_rider

    It’s hard to add more trains, but they are currently in negotiation to add cars to existing trains:
    “As a way to confront significant capacity issues brought on by record ridership growth, Caltrain is negotiating the purchase of additional rail cars to help enlarge the rail agency’s fleet. The new cars would be added to existing trains to enable Caltrain to carry more passengers.”
    See name link for details.

  14. Posted by 7 by 7

    I take it every day and pretty much love it. 4-tracking the whole length would be a good thing to make room for express/bullets to pass the locals. So would grade separating the whole system – delays are infrequent but when they happen it’s due to cars or people being on tracks they shouldn’t be able to easily access.
    Some of the above is being done as part of the 2019 upgrade. Hope they keep up the pace as it’s definitely getting more crowded.

  15. Posted by Toady

    The problem with Caltrain is that it was designed to funnel people to San Francisco, not the other way around. The support to take people from stations on the peninsula and south bay is practically nonexistent.
    There are shuttles, but frankly, it’s too spread out.
    As for 4 tracking it and grade separation – that dog’s not going to hunt. You know Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton won’t let that happen. That killed HSR.

  16. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    The Bay Area will to expect Caltrain to move more commuters in the next decade. That mandate could neutralize the peninsula NIMBYs. It would be ironic if they were successful in killing HSR only to have Caltrain volume rise above what Caltrain+HSR would have been.
    There are not many clear ROWs between SJ and SF: I-280, El Camino, Caltrain, Hwy-101. All of them are at capacity and expanding Caltrain is the cheapest and lowest impact way to accommodate more commuting. Oh yeah, and adding more GoogleBuses too.

  17. Posted by Toady

    “That mandate could neutralize the peninsula NIMBYs.”
    LOL. If San Francisco can’t manage its own NIMBYs (see 8 Washington), how can it expect to influence “neutralizing” NIMBYs elsewhere?

  18. Posted by BobN

    Future generations are going to look back at our shortsightedness and shake their heads. Two tracks into a city of nearly a million people on a peninsula housing two million more is absurd.

  19. Posted by 7 by 7

    Because graying boomers who only like cars are dwindling in number and younger, more monied folks (re-read the average income data for the ridership) who like the train and don’t like gridlock are increasing in numbers, that’s how.
    Lots of southbound a.m. and northbound p.m. folks on the train nowadays, it’s packed then too. So Caltrain is more than just about a way to “funnel people into SF”. More residential and commercial development is happening within walking distance of peninsula and South Bay stations, too. It’s getting better all the time.
    Finally, grade separations keep people alive and reduce the need for loud whistles/horns. Everyone, NIMBYs included, should like that.

  20. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Toady, I was thinking that this would not be a SF-only aspiration. Really the only way dodge this peninsula regional transportation need (whether rail or roadway) would be to suppress growth altogether. That might come to pass but would be the first step towards the Bay Area abdicating its position as a world leader in business and technology.

  21. Posted by anonanon

    “It’s hard to add more trains, but they are currently in negotiation to add cars to existing trains”
    Not trivial either given that existing trains are pretty close to the length of the platforms at many stations.
    The problem is that Caltrain can’t even adequately handle regular rush-hour traffic. When there is a Giants home game, the commute becomes a nightmare, and there are 81 regular season home games per year. And now some idiots want to add a 200 events-per-year Warriors arena on top of that.
    I had an afternoon business meeting in the South Bay last week. Took Uber down there. After the meeting, an employee drove me to the San Jose Caltrain station so that I could take an express train back to SF, which should take about an hour and during rush hour likely would be a lot faster than Uber.
    Took 375 leaving San Jose at 5:23. No problem snagging an upper level single seat.
    Next stop Mountain View. It was on a night of a Giants home game and the combination of regular commuters and Giants fans exhausted the train’s seating capacity and boarding every one took quite some time.
    Next stop Palo Alto. So many people got onboard that the process probably took 5-10 minutes. The result was that the downstair aisles were completely packed with people standing.
    Next stop Menlo Park. By now the train was so full that the only place to stand was in the aisles upstairs. And the boarding process took quite some time.
    Next stop Redwood City. Same deal as Menlo Park and by now, even the aisles upstair were close to capacity in terms of standing room.
    Next stop Millbrae. More people get off than on (BART to the East Bay). So a bit of relief.
    Then it was just 22nd St. and 4th & King where people just get off.

  22. Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

    Passing lanes. It’s not impossible to widen some stretches to provide for a passing zone. That way the express trains can pass the local trains. Hayward Park has enough room. So do some stretches in San Carlos etc., etc.
    Or, allow the express train to switch over to the opposite direction’s tracks to pass and then switch back (obviously). They do this in Japan to allow faster trains to pass slow ones. I am sure we could figure it out too.

  23. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    17 percent of weekday riders earn more than $200,000!!! Protesters are coming!

  24. Posted by anonanon

    @Jimmy,
    I think that adding more capacity to Caltrain is doable in theory but in practice, it might be a little bit more complicated than it may sound. And who is going to pay for it? Tax payers? Billionaires who own a sports team out of vanity and want to build a new arena? Ridership? Given the current conditions of things, either ridership is insufficient to pay for the system to run adequately or the whole thing is severely mismanaged. In either case, we are screwed.

  25. Posted by LJL

    anonanon,
    I’m pretty sure most, if not all, public transit systems require partial public subsidies. What makes you think we are screwed?

  26. Posted by zig

    Single best regional transit investment we can make is getting Caltrain to the Transbay. Far better use of our $$ than BART extensions to nowhere.

  27. Posted by anonanon

    “What makes you think we are screwed?”
    The way things work today. And this is coming from someone who uses Caltrain to commute to work since my office is about a two-minute walk from a station. Again, Caltrain can’t even handle the regular rush-hour commute adequately. Add a Giants game and we are talking tons of commuters who will be standing rather than sitting down and working on their laptops or reading the newspaper.

  28. Posted by Toady

    You all are focusing on one piece of the puzzle. No matter what you do with Caltrain, the basic fact is that the peninsula is not dense enough for Samtrans and VTA to build up infrastructure to get to the “last mile.”
    Again, Caltrain as it stands (and will continue even with current proposals) is designed to funnel people to SF, not the other way around.
    NIMBYs or no-NIMBYs

  29. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “…the basic fact is that the peninsula is not dense enough for Samtrans and VTA to build up infrastructure to get to the “last mile.”
    … which is why bikes are so popular with Caltrain customers: bikes-on-board, bay area bike share, and bike lockers. When using a bike+long distance transit (caltrain, BART, etc.) you don’t have to deal with the lameness of the last-mile transit. The bike bridges the last mile (or five). Even grannies and grandpas take advantage of the dual mode.

  30. Posted by anonanon

    MoD,
    Bikes have their pros and cons. On a rainy day when you are on your way to an important business meeting, they may not be the greatest form of transportation. As for the Bay Area BikeShare stuff, better hope there is a place to drop off the bike near your workplace or it will be somewhat expensive. (And I’m a BikeShare member even though I own a bike that has been in storage since 1992 when I moved to SF from Palo Alto. In Palo Alto, the bike was my main mode of transportation even though I owned a car. It’s much easier to get around the Stanford campus on a bike than in a car. And Palo Alto is very bicycle friendly with flat terrain, lots of bike lanes, quiet suburban streets, etc. In SF, I’ve never used that bike and my annual BikeShare membership has so far resulted in a single ten-minute ride a couple of months ago.)

  31. Posted by Toady

    Ah, bicycles. The savior for every transit problem.
    According to Caltrain, the bicycle ridership is around 10.4% of passengers (see http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/Stats+and+Reports/Ridership/2013+Annual+Ridership+Counts.pdf)
    Looking the other way, 89.6% of riders don’t use bikes. MoD, I’d say that most Caltrain passengers disagree with you.

  32. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Toady – Hmmmm… I didn’t say that most Caltrain riders biked. And your 10% number only includes those who take a bike on board. It doesn’t count those who just use a bike at one end or the other of their journey.
    I don’t claim that bikes can solve every transit problem. But their use combined with transit can really amplify the range of Caltrain especially considering how small, cheap, and clean they are. For example using a bike makes it fast and easy to travel to and from any point within a two mile radius of Caltrain stations. That accounts for most employment centers in the three Caltrain counties, a very large amount of residential in SF and SC counties, and pretty much all of SM county. A two mile bike ride takes about twelve minutes, even for slow bikers.

  33. Posted by zig

    Last mile shuttles work well if they run often enough. The Genentech one from Glen Park was so frequent I used to not need to check schedules
    I don’t know the answer but many people have pretty unrealistic exceptions it seems to be able to live 40 miles from work and take PT to a train station, then the train and then a shuttle to the suburban work center yet have that be as fast as driving. That is a pretty tall order.

  34. Posted by TiredOfBikes

    I’m sorry, but I am getting sick and tired of bike enthusiasts constantly promoting their favorite form of transportation. As a reminder, over 50% of serious injuries on bikes are caused by SOLO bike accidents with NO vehicles involved.
    Also, as mentioned above, I regularly use a bike for recreation, but cannot use it for work which requires me to visit various locations poorly served by transit throughout the entire Bay Area.
    As a reminder, this large sprawling region has multiple job centers outside the provincial world of people going from the Mission to FiDi. We are not like a Chicago or New York with a traditional spoke transit system where everyone travels to the center for work and entertainment. There is just as much traffic going south on 280 and 101 in the morning as there is going north.

  35. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    I’m tired of people who are tired of hearing about viable alternatives to the consensus reality. OK, now slip back into the Matrix and enjoy the nutritional fluids while they are still flowing.

  36. Posted by Zig

    I also would not say Caltrain has a problem in the suburbs. It has an access problem to downtown SF and maybe some poorly located stations.
    The Peninsula towns are making some changes like my new home city of San Mateo but expecting to get to all jobs in a reverse commute is unrealistic. The majority of rides is going to downtown SF because setting aside sheer numbers there is congestion and priced parking there.
    If they ever get to the terminal ridership is going to go way up on Caltrain and down on BART from San Mateo Country. It will be way faster and a much nicer ride

  37. Posted by anonanon

    “I also would not say Caltrain has a problem in the suburbs. It has an access problem to downtown SF and maybe some poorly located stations.”
    I don’t think there is an issue getting from 4th & King to downtown. Just hop onto the N or T line. Yes, Giants games will screw up MUNI, but contrast that with getting to Oracle from Caltrain on the Peninsula outside their shuttle hours. A pretty long walk.

  38. Posted by Toady

    “I also would not say Caltrain has a problem in the suburbs.”
    It certainly does – Google/Facebook/Apple/Yahoo buses are private sector reactions to a flaw (whether it’s governmental, structural or demographic – probably a mix of all of the above) in public transit to the peninsula and south bay.
    Some people are arguing that Caltrain is a viable alternative to buses (see early posts on this thread). It’s not.
    As for zig’s comment: “many people have pretty unrealistic exceptions it seems to be able to live 40 miles from work and take PT to a train station” – seems to work for NYC. But in general, you’re probably right.

  39. Posted by Zig

    @toady
    How does it work n NYC? There is a large reverse commute out of Manhattan on commuter rail? This is news to me
    @ tired of Bikes
    I think there is a much larger commute around Chicagoland than you may realize these days. There is a lot of suburban job centers there and suburb to suburb commuting. Don’t know if it is any worse here. I’d be curious to see the data

  40. Posted by Zig

    Also I agree that private shuttles are superior to CalTrain. I disagree that there is a flaw of public transportation to FB and Google etc. It is a flaw in land use planning but mostly Google, FB and Yahoo’s problem for locating themselves in poor locations. Spatially dispersed locations can never really be served

  41. Posted by Toady

    @zig – yes, I should have been more specific. The 40 mi commute works one way well (into NYC), but that’s how most commute rail transport systems work. It’s optimized for one direction. You can say that about BART too.
    As for Google/FB/Yahoo’s problem – not really. The majority of tech workers (engineers, product, etc.) still live on the peninsula and south bay. It’s only a small subset of workers (and usually the young ones) that are taking these buses.
    As much as SF has grown in tech and in recent VC-funded startups, the center of tech is still the Valley.

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