Updates on Caltrain wifi and airport connections

From the last Caltrain and Samtrans board meetings, some slow progress on wifi and airport connections, but no solutions yet.

At the last Caltrain board meeting, the director’s report included an update on Caltrain’s efforts to add wifi to the trains.  Caltrain has hired a marketing consultant, Singer and Associates, to solicit a corporate sponsor for the service.  Singer is investigating seven potential partners. Caltrain is looking to example of the MBTA in the Boston, which has implemented wifi on its commuter trains since 2010, and is currently seeking corporate sponsorship to upgrade the service.

The good news is that the capital equipment to run wifi is included in the proposed Capital Equipment budget for 2014. The bad news is that wifi will be cut if Caltrain does not get full $4.8 million per partner agency that it is requesting.

At the $3.6 million level, Caltrain would also reduce its train car maintenance by $500,000, at a time when the aging cars are breaking down, causing reliability problems.

Wifi to be deferred if Caltrain gets less capital funding from partners

Wifi to be deferred if Caltrain gets less capital funding from partners

On the SFO connection topic, the bad news is that SamTrans has made the decision to truncate the KX service at Redwood City, getting rid of a low-cost, reasonably time-efficient, and little-known service to the airport for riders in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. The KX has low ridership, and SamTrans was not convinced by the encouragement of the services’ true fans that they should try to market the hidden gem of a service before deciding to kill it for riders south of Redwood City.

On the bright side, SamTrans has lifted a longstanding luggage ban on the KX from San Francisco.   Luggage has been banned on the KX  since the 70s, following a lawsuit from an airport shuttle company that opposed public sector competition. The shuttle company hasn’t served the airport since 2006, and SamTrans finally lifted the ban as a result of customer complaints.

More good news is that new SamTrans senior planner Douglas Kim told Green Caltrain that he has heard customer feedback loud and clear, and strongly agrees that transit to the airport is woefully inadequate, and SamTrans is looking for new connection solutions.   SamTrans staff is focused in the near term on implementing the service overhaul approved by the board, and then will look again at how to improve the airport connection.    We’ll give them a few months, and ask again.

One possible option might be a new bus route from San Bruno to the airport, added so close to the SamTrans Service Plan approval deadline that SamTrans didn’t have proposed timing for it yet.  The route would start at San Bruno BART; the new Caltrain station will be less than a mile away. Depending on timing, that could be helpful for airport travellers.  According to Google Maps, the airport is 3 miles and less than 10 minutes by car, so a one-hop bus ride could work.

Another possible option would be a Millbrae   shuttle, which would need funding.  How much extra would you be willing to pay for a Millbrae shuttle?  For this blogger, transit to the airport is competing with SuperShuttle at about $20.  So the current $9 Caltrain-BART-BART dance is cheaper than the alternative. A $4 shuttle add-on, which would be the same price as the BART dance and less schedule hassle, would feel like a good deal to me.   What do you think?