News

Caltrain looks to bolster service in Palo Alto

Agency responds to growing demand by adding six trains, more Palo Alto stops

Spurred by a swelling number of commuters, Caltrain plans to bolster its weekday service by adding six trains and having more existing trains stop in Palo Alto.

The proposal, which Caltrain presented to Palo Alto's City Council Rail Committee Thursday afternoon, June 7, would raise the number of weekday trains from 86 to 92. This includes adding two trains in the afternoon peak hours and restoring four "shoulder peak" trains that were suspended in 2011 when the agency was wrestling with budget cuts. These trains run at the tail end of the morning rush and before the busy afternoon hours.

Two of these limited-stop shoulder-peak trains would depart San Francisco at 9:37 a.m. and 2:37 p.m. The other two would depart San Jose at 9:33 a.m. and 2:33 p.m., according to Caltrain.

The proposal, which the agency's board of directors is tentatively scheduled to vote on next month, would also add an additional stop to 12 existing trains. Six of these would stop at Palo Alto's downtown station and six others would stop in Sunnyvale. The new stops would add about two minutes to a trip on the baby-bullet train.

The changes were prompted by a surge or ridership at the popular train service. According to Caltrain statistics, the number of riders jumped from 37,779 in February 2011 to 42,354 in February 2012, a 12.1 percent jump. Jayme Ackmann, Caltrain's government affairs officer, said many of the existing trains currently operate near or beyond capacity. In many cases, riders stand in the trains' vestibules or in aisles. The high number of bicyclists also adds to the congestion.

"We have to bump bicyclists more and more frequently because there's not enough spaces to carry their bicycles," Ackemann told the committee.

The Palo Alto committee was generally supportive of the proposal, though it urged Caltrain to take a closer look at another part of Palo Alto -- the Caltrain stop at California Avenue. While the University Avenue stop is the second-busiest station on Caltrain's line and will likely continue to get the bulk of service increases, city officials argued that the California Avenue stop is increasingly important because of its proximity to Stanford Research Park, residential neighborhoods and the California Avenue Business District.

Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of the local rail-watchdog group Californians Advocating for Responsible Rail Design also urged Caltrain to consider adding service to California Avenue.

"I think it's great that we're improving the schedule for downtown Palo Alto. It's critical. Cars are packed," Alexis said. "But California Avenue -- somewhere it got left behind."

The three committee members --- Larry Klein, Pat Burt and Nancy Shepherd -- all agreed and directed staff to reach out to Stanford Research Park's transportation-demand manager to gather more information about train demand near California Avenue. Burt suggested that many of the people boarding and getting off at the University Avenue stop actually work near California Avenue but are forced to go downtown because of inadequate service there. He cited Facebook, which until recently had its headquarters on California.

"What was happening was that Facebook employees who could walk from California Avenue to their place of work instead had to take University because the service was so low on California Avenue," Burt said.

Shepherd agreed and called for Caltrain to consider having at least two baby bullet trains stop at California.

The city also submitted a letter to Caltrain on Friday, urging the agency to consider adding service to the California Avenue stop.

Ackemann also said Thursday that Caltrain's service changes aim to accommodate riders from the technology community, many of who work different hours than typical work commuters. Many of these riders were not satisfied with Caltrain's service levels during peak hours.

"We're adding stops to several of our express trains to further accommodate some of the ridership increase we've seen," she said.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Transposed?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:39 am

Editor: Did this get transposed?

"According to Caltrain statistics, the number of riders jumped from 37,779 in February 2011 to 32,354 in February 2012, a 12.1 percent jump."

As written, that is a 12% decline, no?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julie Jacobsen
a resident of University South
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:41 am

"The changes were prompted by a surge or ridership at the popular train service. According to Caltrain statistics, the number of riders jumped from 37,779 in February 2011 to 32,354 in February 2012, a 12.1 percent jump." Might want to run those numbers again?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Commuter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2012 at 10:54 am

I'm glad that poor service Cal Ave. was discussed at the Rail committee. Prior to the baby bullets Cal Ave. had a lot of activity. Once Cal Ave's service was cut to allow for more express trains, many used the downtown station, increasing ridership there at Cal Ave's expense. With all of the business and residential density near Cal Ave., it makes sense to include it as a stop for some of the baby bullets.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:11 am

@ Transposed and Julie: Those numbers aren't transposed. Caltrain is just using the new High Speed Rail math to calculate ridership figures. Using the HSR method, ridership is ALWAYS increasing...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:27 am

Good.

Now it is time to improve public transportation for the first/last mile for all our commuters, whether PA is homebase or destination.

Buses and shuttles must arrive in such time as to allow passengers to catch the train, then wait until such time as alighting train passengers have time to catch them. Without first/last mile improvements, Caltrain will not reach its full potential.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by cheap
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:33 am

You folks who are confused by numbers just need to get on rush hour trains to see how much fuller they are now than a few years ago. Some are so full that they are turning away paying customers. Adding more train service is surely much cheaper than building more highways. All those $100 million patches they are putting into Hwy 101 are barely adding any capacity.

Yes, the last mile (or 2 or 3) is an important problem since big employers seem to be attracted to locations away from train stations (like the new Facebook campus). I hope the city can restore the around-town shuttle bus service that has been cut way back over the years.

More people using public transit means a lot less congestion, noise, and pollution in our neighborhoods.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Real Ridership Data
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:56 am

See Web Link for the actual ridership data to show that the figure for 2012 is 42,354, not 32,354. There was a single digit typo, not a transposition of figures. (That's the more likely explanation using Occam's razor anyway.) Palo Alto station had a 15.7% increase over 2011.

If Caltrain adds a peak hour train in each direction, how will that affect the ability to cross Caltrain at the four grade crossings?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2012 at 11:57 am

Clearly a typo.

February 2012 average weekday ridership was 42,354 boardings, not 32,354 as incorrectly cited in the article. Web Link

Editor: please fix!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ashley
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm

California Avenue now has 1000+ daily boarding which is much higher than San Bruno, Burlingame, Lawrenace or Santa Clara. But number of train served is less than those stations. Cal Ave need more train to be served.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth Alexis
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm

If you want more service at Cal Ave or have other comments about the proposed schedule, TODAY is last official comment period. Email your thoughts to: changes@caltrain.com

The proposed schedule is at Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tyler Hanley
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Jun 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

Our apologies for the numerical error. It is now fixed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Jun 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

To Anonymous, who wrote: "Clearly a typo.

February 2012 average weekday ridership was 42,354 boardings, not 32,354 as incorrectly cited in the article. Web Link

Editor: please fix!"

Well, you spoke, the Weekly heard you!
That line was just changed to:
"According to Caltrain statistics, the number of riders jumped from 37,779 in February 2011 to 42,354 in February 2012, a 12.1 percent jump."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cynthia
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm

What is the latest on adding wifi? I was so surprised and disappointed when I started commuting to SF from PA/MP on CalTrain and no internet!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by services
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Caltrain is really operating a minimal cost operation. Ticket offices and restrooms at train stations have long been closed, etc. I have to imagine than new services like WiFi aren't going to happen until Caltrain gets a major upgrade, like the electrification that everyone keeps dreaming about.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Yes upgrades, we need upgrades. Restrooms, ticket offices, buses and shuttle stations, bike rentals, how about car rentals and car sharing services. We just have in some stops just giant open air waiting areas.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Agree with all the comments about last mile - but who would supply it? VTA or maybe Caltrain? I guess we would need to survey how many more people would actually ride Caltrain if they could get to it more easily.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by services
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Employers should pitch for shuttles to pick up their employees. Each shuttle can visit multiple employers who share the cost. This is much cheaper than each employer building new parking lots.

Cities should also look into providing shuttles at the residence end. Currently VTA service is really terrible in Palo Alto residential neighborhoods and the city can pick up some of that slack. Much cheaper for the city to provide around-town shuttles than to build new streets.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2012 at 1:09 am

CalTrain should be looking into hydrogen-cell locomotives. They would be far, far cheaper than electrification.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neil Shea
a resident of University South
on Jun 11, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Wait, Palo Altans want to ride trains and benefit from train service?

I thought we had demanded that our city to everything possible to prevent additional train transportation options so that we could all enjoy driving our Personal Motor Cars for ever and ever.

Let's stop all this nonsense about more train service. Next thing you know someone's going to suggest some grade separations so cars don't have to stop at crossings, and so we can better fence off the dangerous tracks...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Yes, trains for *local* transit. Not for some imaginary need to ride a choo-choo to LA.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Standardized Test Prep: When to Start and Whom to Hire?
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,405 views

King of the Slides
By Cheryl Bac | 4 comments | 1,261 views

Finger Food and a Blood Lite?
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,041 views

Subverting open, fair and honest debate (Measure D)
By Douglas Moran | 6 comments | 645 views

The Future of our Parks: Public Workshops this Week
By Cathy Kirkman | 0 comments | 640 views