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The Green Caltrain blog is sponsored by BayRail Alliance, an all-volunteer non-profit organization supporting green rail transit in the Bay Area. This blog and BayRail have no affiliation with Caltrain.


Caltrain considers level boarding, car design

Caltrain is about to make decisions about the design of electric rail cars that will affect the service for many decades to come. At the last board meeting, David Couch, who is managing the electrification project, talked about the set of decisions that Caltrain will make this year. For more about the decisions, and opportunities to weigh in – including a Citizens’ Advisory Committee Meeting tonight – read on.

The good news is that Caltrain is thinking seriously about how to migrate to level boarding, and the discussion is much more about how than whether. Level boarding is expected to provide 50% again as much speed improvement as electrification itself, above and beyond to improving accessibility for disabled and elderly folk.

There are important questions about how the migration is going to work -how the transition will be done technically, how the platform changes will be paid for, and how the obsolete San Francisco Public Utilities Commission rule requiring un-necessary stairs will be addressed.

The bad news is that Caltrain and High Speed Rail are leaning heavily toward platform incompatiblity. This is unfortunate, because having platform compatibility would help with greater capacity for the blended system in the long run.

There are other important decisions that will affect service for riders for decades to come:

Standing room. Today, Caltrain’s goal is to have a seat for every rider. But there clearly hasn’t been enough room. The average Caltrain ride is 20+ miles, but some people have shorter rides. Should there be more comfortable standing space for at least some people with short rides?

How much space to allocate for bicycles, and how to think rationally about bikes. In our area, 80% of jobs are within 2-3 miles of Caltrain – people use bicycles to make the last-mile connection. If Caltrain wants to save some space on the train, there’s no free lunch -the alternative is providing shuttle or bike share services (or more traffic congestion)

How much space to allocate for bathrooms? Average trips are 30-50 minutes, and Caltrain has bathrooms in only two stations.

There is a set of upcoming events where you can learn more and weigh in. In addition to the events below, there will be a Friends of Caltrain panel discussion, with a date TBD shortly.

Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC)
Aug. 20, 2014 at 5:40pm
Caltrain HQ, 1250 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos

Community Meeting
1250 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos
Sept. 8, 2014 at 11am and 6pm

Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC)
1250 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos
Sept. 18, 2014 at 5:45pm

Local Policy Makers Group (LPMG)
1250 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos
Sept. 25, 2014 at 6pm

Caltrain Access Advisory Committee
1250 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos
Sept. 22, 2014 at 11am


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  • Interactive Caltrain schedule

  • Calendar of events

    • November 5, 2014

      SamTrans Board meeting

      Starts: 2:00 pm

      Location: 1250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos, CA

    • November 6, 2014

      Caltrain JPB meeting

      Starts: 10:00 am

      Location: Location: 2nd Floor Auditorium San Mateo County Transit District 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos

    • November 11, 2014

      TJPA CAC Meeting

      Starts: 5:30 pm

      Location: 201 Mission Street, Suite 2100 San Francisco, CA

    • November 13, 2014

      TJPA Board Meeting

      Starts: 9:30 am

      Location: City Hall, Room 416, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102

    • November 19, 2014

      Caltrain CAC meeting

      Starts: 5:30 pm

      Location: Location: 2nd Floor Auditorium San Mateo County Transit District 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos

    • November 20, 2014

      Caltrain BAC meeting

      Starts: 6:30 pm

      Location: 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos, CA

      Description: Bicycle Advisory Committee

    • December 3, 2014

      SamTrans Board meeting

      Starts: 2:00 pm

      Location: 1250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos, CA

    • December 4, 2014

      Caltrain JPB meeting

      Starts: 10:00 am

      Location: Location: 2nd Floor Auditorium San Mateo County Transit District 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos

    • December 9, 2014

      TJPA CAC Meeting

      Starts: 5:30 pm

      Location: 201 Mission Street, Suite 2100 San Francisco, CA

    • December 11, 2014

      TJPA Board Meeting

      Starts: 9:30 am

      Location: City Hall, Room 416, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102