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Big jump in transit riders reported this year

Original post made on Nov 21, 2008

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority bus and rail ridership increased 12 percent October over last October, the agency reports.


Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 21, 2008, 9:58 AM

Comments (26)

Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2008 at 10:08 am

Good to hear. I hope that VTA responds by increasing service throughout the county, instead of throwing all their money at BART, which serves only a small portion of residents.


Posted by susan
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2008 at 11:10 am

The day pass on the VTA is the best deal around.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 11:16 am

Its not surprising that the bay area's local transit needs are rapidly increasing. This indicates that it would be short sited to hand over Caltrain's existing rights of way through the Peninsula (ie: Caltrains future capacity), to a high speed rail, that would really only serve as a substitute primarily for out of town travels (SF to LA, etc).

In a place where our local commuting transit needs are growing quickly, and the ability and options for expanding our rail options (light rail, electric trains) just to serve our own communities, will be extremely painful, it seems extremely short sited to be considering putting High Speed Rail down this particular corridor.

It seems a much wiser and farsighted option would be to look for ways to put high speed rail down existing freeway corridors, either parallel to freeways, or on elevated structures over the median strips of freeways, to minimize the community, environmental and aethetic impacts of new railways. The freeway corridors (101, 280, 680, etc) are areas that progress has already paved over nature and neighborhoods - lets use wise planning to concentrate and compact the impacts into as small a footprint as possible. Why keep 'railroading' over more living and breathing space if we don't really have to?

If riderships are increasing, hopefully this means our transit systems like Caltrains will have the resources and the political will to make improvements (like grade separated crossings) without having to claim they need HST to accomplish those improvements.


Posted by High Speed Rail will help Caltrain
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 11:25 am

Putting High Speed Rail along the Caltrain right of way is exactly the right thing to do. And it will bring the money needed to improve Caltrain by adding more tracks. With only two tracks, we cannot have express trains passing local trains. With High Speed Rail adding more tracks, it will be possible to have more baby bullets that pass local trains. It could take 20 or 30 minutes to get from Palo Alto to the SF Caltrain terminal, not the best currently available at least 40 minutes.

With Palo Alto Univ Ave Caltrain station being the busiest on the Peninsula and most traffic there being between the Univ Ave Caltrain station and the SF terminus, High Speed Rail could enable serving that community even faster and with more capacity than is possible now.


Posted by Rider
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 21, 2008 at 11:45 am

I often take VTA light rail from downtown mtn. view to downtown San Jose. It is cheaper than driving and parking but it is so slow! The trip can take more than an hour on instead of 20 minutes by car.

How about some express VTA lines that don't stop everywhere??


Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 11:49 am

High speed rail may help Caltrain, but it will NOT help local commuters, it will not help cities along the line like Palo Alto, Menlo Park and ATherton (etc.) and it will not improve our bay area commuting situation.

High Speed Train is mainly an alternative to long distance (plane or car) travel between northern and southern California.
This is not designed as a solution for our local commutes.

It will however permanently use up space within the existing Caltrain right of way along the Peninsula so that any possibility of future expansion of Caltrain will be gone forever.

An improvement of 10 minutes or so between SF and PA is an extremely short sited tradeoff to give away all this potential future capacity to a high speed rail.

The current Caltrain system is already quite full. The addition of separate high speed system would further constrain our local Caltrain service.

And this is not even to mention the major impacts to quality of life this will have along the Peninsula corridor if high speed rail were to be installed (ie: trains running atop 15 foot walls - cutting our cities in half, etc.)

The money to improve Caltrain can come from other sources, especially if riderships are vastly increasing. Caltrain giving up their right of way capacity to HST is a deal for our soul with the devil.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 12:00 pm

"And it will bring the money needed to improve Caltrain by adding more tracks. With only two tracks, we cannot have express trains passing local trains. With High Speed Rail adding more tracks, it will be possible to have more baby bullets that pass local trains."

This is a false statement. The added tracks would be dedicated to high speed rail. The additional tracks would not allow Caltrain baby bullets to pass Caltrain local stopping trains. Local Caltrains would still be limited to two tracks. But even more constrained because there would be track sharing implications at some of the HST stops.

In fact the widening of the tracks will create significant eminent domain and quality of life issues in Palo Alto, not to mention property value degredation in Palo Alto. An extremely high price to pay for turning University station into a bustling metropolitan transportation hub (repleat with high rise dense housing, massive parking structures, etc).

In my view and I'm sure many local Peninsula residents will begin to share this view as they start to learn more about the truth about the impacts HST will have on our neighborhoods, Palo Alto would be among the LEAST well served community (along with Menlo Park and Atherton), and would be devastated environmentally, culturally by the high speed train coming through.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 1:07 pm

I am pleased to see that VTA ridership is up and I hope that this compares favorably with other authorities in the Bay area.

I hope also that this shows all transit authorities that they are able to increase ridership if they increase service, improve ticketing options, and co-ordinate themselves. Buses need to meet and wait for trains, one ticket needs to be available for 2 short journeys on different buses or even different modes of transport, family passes and off peak tickets will also help. They need to work together to improve the transit all over the Bay area.

May I make the first suggestion of improvements as getting transport options from the Peninsula to both SFO and San Jose airports. Both these airports' passengers suffer greatly from not having land transport options for air passengers and airport staff.

And, this is not the time to start asking for higher fares to offshoot higher fuel. If ridership is up then that is increase in itself.


Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Resident- Caltrain serves both SFO and SJC. There are luggage racks in most trains (3rd car from the north end). There is a free shuttle bus from the Santa Clara Caltrain station to SJC. You need to transfer to BART at Milbrae to get to SFO. There are lots of public buses that also serve both airports. I never park at the airport any more.

You can find more public transit info on the airport web sites.

Yes it would be nice if transfers were easier and cheaper (like in San Francisco). Maybe one day.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Greg

Many thanks for your information.

I have never heard of the shuttle from Santa Clara Caltrain and didn't realise that BART and Caltrain were that close in Milbrae. The Google transport site does not mention either of these.

But, how come Caltrain doesn't advertise this fact? Come on guys, if you want us to use your service, you must make it easier for us to know about it. Have you ever tried to find out how to get from a to b from their websites?

How about a slogan "Let the train take the strain" and do some advertising!!!!


Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Resident - Caltrain does advertise the airport connections. The connections are shown on the official Caltrain system map (printed on all the Caltrain schedules and displayed in all the train stations).

Any time you're on a train that stops in Milbrae or Santa Clara, the conductor announces that you can transfer from there to the airport, so all regular train users should know about this service.

There is a "how to get from A to B by public transit" calculator on the 511.org web site. Click on the "transit" button at the top of the web site. The "schedules" button on the caltrain.org web site links you to 511.org. You can probably get the same information by calling 511 on any telephone. I bet there are posters directing you to these services at bus and train stations all over the bay area.

I've been taking Caltrain to SFO for at least 10 years. Before BART connected to the Milbrae Caltrain station, there was a shuttle bus from the station to the airport.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Greg

Thank you for discussing this with me.

What you describe, is not what I would call advertising. Once someone uses Caltrain, seeing the steps you mention is fine. But, what about trying to advertise to those arriving at SFO or those new residents who have never thought of using Caltrain to get to the airport.

I think VTA does some advertising of its services, but I don't seem to remember any advertising linked to the airport(s).

If you arrive at say Heathrow airport in London, there are big posters advertising the rail and bus services. There is a big counter to help with ground transportation in all the arrival halls. I don't see this when I arrive at SFO.

Why don't say the buses carry advertising their links to the airports instead of just advertising movies (I know the movie posters generate income) but some posters advertising their own service could help.

For our transport services to be almost invisible is insane. Why should the public have to search for this information when it should be blazened all around so that we know where to go without looking hard.

If we had one transit authority and if they advertised their service in the same way as car dealerships, or other local businesses, we might start remembering to use them when we need transport. Otherwise, we just forget.


Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Resident - there are information desks (not always staffed) at the airports where you can get information about public transit. There also are signs at the airport directing you to BART and Caltrain and SamTrans busses. Perhaps Americans are just so used to driving that they don't think about looking for public transit options. I see foreign tourists at the Caltrain station all the time, so the signs must be working.

I'm pretty sure that I have seen 511.org posters on the outside of public buses.

You can also type "Caltrain to SFO" into Google.


Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2008 at 6:46 pm

P.S. The origin of this thread is a newspaper article about people actually using public transit in large numbers. That does mean that lots of people have figure out how to use it.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Greg

I take your point.

Perhaps it is just that I am well travelled and notice what is unfamiliar and helpful while away rather than familiar and not necessary or apparent at home.


Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Nov 21, 2008 at 9:59 pm

BART has made it harder to get to SFO from Millbrae by requiring a change of trains at San Bruno. Many people find the KX bus from Palo Alto to SFO a better alternative than Caltrain/BART now.


Posted by Barf
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 22, 2008 at 9:52 am

Wonderful! A profit. Watch'm jack the fare up now and blame the unions.


Posted by The Real Truth
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Nov 22, 2008 at 4:46 pm





This is a LIE. Those SAM TRANS buses which run down El Camino at 5:00 - 6:00 on weekday rush hours are EMPTY. They are even doubled to accommodate more passengers and every time I see them they have had at most 2-3 passengers. This bus stops in front of Town and Country and Stanford shopping center. They are empty going both ways.

As for those other buses traversing this city, they are empty most of the day with the exception for the school kids after school.

We are running inefficient smog producing buses so a handful of people can get around.

The school district should use some of the nearly 400 dollars a year they get from all of us and buy themselves a few low emissions minivans to take these kids down the road. (Jordan/Gunn)

Other states without sales tax or State Tax (Washington/Oregon) provide transportation to their students on new mini buses which have clean emissions.

I can make it to my classes at Stanford by bike faster than taking the Marguerite shuttle. I have never seen this shuttle full.

Next time you see a county bus, take a look inside.

This seems like an extreme expense for our counties to continue to operate these buses for a handful of people.


Posted by annoyed
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2008 at 9:06 pm

I can't see how the VTA can be turning any profit. My son and I rode the light rail to a Sharks game and not once did anyone check for tickets either direction. I don't think anyone was buying tickets.


Posted by Clem
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2008 at 9:11 pm

> The current Caltrain system is already quite full. The addition of separate high speed system would further constrain our local Caltrain service.

The current Caltrain system suffers from a SEVERE lack of throughput due to operating slow (local) trains mixed with fast (baby bullet) trains on the same two tracks. The trains have to be spaced VERY widely to avoid an express catching the preceding local-- in fact, to many smaller towns' dismay, Caltrain does not operate all-stops locals at rush hour. Stops must be skipped to make it work; see how many trains stop at Cal Ave at rush hour. The ENTIRE Caltrain weekday schedule is orchestrated around express-local overtaking maneuvers that MUST occur within the short four-track zones in Sunnyvale and Brisbane. When a train is even a few minutes late, the whole schedule falls apart from the domino effect. Caltrain is making the best of the two-track situation.

> The added tracks would be dedicated to high speed rail.

You are misinformed. They would be fully interoperable with Caltrain. Thanks to grade separations, Caltrain express trains (picture modern electric trains, not the ancient diesel equipment operating today) could run safely at 100 mph instead of 79, mixed right in with high speed trains. Local service could be operated simultaneously with express service on few-minute headways because the trains could overtake each other anywhere on the line, instead of just Sunnyvale and Brisbane. Even with high speed rail in the mix, Caltrain would benefit from massively increased flexibility.

Four tracks would lead to quicker, more frequent Caltrain service, much more than would ever be possible by electrifying just the two existing tracks. With commute times suddenly competitive with automobile slogs, you might even see reduced road congestion right in Palo Alto.

Four tracks are the best thing that could possibly happen to improve Caltrain service.


Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 23, 2008 at 12:09 am

"My son and I rode the light rail to a Sharks game and not once did anyone check for tickets either direction."

Ticket enforcement is only occasional. If you get caught without a ticket, I recall being told the fine being over $200. A lot of people have passes. I have only seen fare enforcement write one person up for not having a ticket. Most of the time people pull out passes, I have a annual pass through my work.


Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 7:16 am

The selected Caltrain Alignment is a "Shared-Use Four-Track" segment.
The HSR trains would share the tracks with Baby Bullet trains on the two new mainline tracks.

As pointed out by Clem, this means that Caltrain can essentially increase local and express service.


(Note that links are multi-mb PDFs)
Final EIR/EIS
Web Link
(page 6)
Alignment Description
From San Francisco to San Jose, this alignment would use the existing Caltrain rail right-of-way. This option assumes that the HST would share tracks with express Caltrain commuter trains. The entire alignment would be four tracks and completely grade separated. Station options considered in this segment include Transbay Terminal, 4th and King, Millbrae, Redwood City, Palo Alto, and San Jose Diridon.

Staff report 6/2008
Web Link

San Francisco to San Jose Alignment Alternatives
• Caltrain Alignment (Shared-Use Four-Track): From San Francisco, this alignment alternative
would follow south along the Caltrain rail alignment to Dumbarton and from there to San Jose.
This alignment alternative assumes that the HST system would share tracks with Caltrain
commuter trains. The entire alignment would be grade separated. Station location options
would include a station in the lower level of the proposed new Transbay Transit Center in San
Francisco or a station at 4th and King Streets, a station in Millbrae to serve SFO, and a station in
either Redwood City or Palo Alto. The Caltrain shared-use alignment would take advantage of
the existing rail infrastructure and would be mostly at-grade.

(above documents were adopted as policy and a RFQ sent out)
Request for Quote to design the shared used corridor:
Web Link
(page 4)

Between San Francisco and San Jose the selected alternative assumes shared infrastructure and right-of-way with Caltrain commuter rail service and potential HST stations at the Transbay Transit Center, Millbrae, Redwood City or Palo Alto, and Diridon Station (San Jose).

The implementation of a HST project is a significant undertaking that requires expert contractor assistance to serve as advisors, managers and consultants to CHSRA technical staff.


Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 7:22 am

Have you ever rode one recently?

They may be empty south of Palo Alto Caltrain (~ 2 mile route), but the KX busses are plenty of passengers going north from Palo Alto Caltrain, and are completely full in San Mateo County (~ 35 mile route). I have (especially when I get on the wrong Caltrain baby bullet- KX is a great backup to go back 1 station).

Perhaps tax payers in San Mateo should demand that we don't send our "empty" busses into another county. (oh wait - VTA already has done this with the 22 - and the out cry from Palo Altans was deafning)



Posted by Greg K
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 23, 2008 at 8:40 am

I regularly see the Caltrain conductors preventing new passengers from boarding because there is no space for them on the train. That can be a big problem at the California Ave. station since trains don't stop there very often.

I don't use the VTA buses very often, but in San Francisco, I see lots of full buses. Sometimes bus after bus is full of passengers, even when they are spaced only 5 or 10 minutes apart.


Posted by Ven
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm

HSR greatly helps Caltrain and other regular rail service. I'm glad Clem and others have already explained this and tossed out some of the misinformed non-sense being slung around by certain people on here.


Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Seeing an empty bus doesn't mean the line has no business, it just means usage patterns are polarized. In the morning the Marguerite shuttles leave the train station full, then empty out on the far end of their run, returning to the station empty to meet the next train. In the evening the opposite happens.

I would love to be able to take the train to the SJ airport, but I often take a 6:30 flight to San Diego and there are no trains early enough to get me there on time.


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