The goal for the next decade of Caltrain service should be to enable ridership to double once again, said Shiloh Ballard of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, speaking on behalf of CEO Carl Guardino, at at a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Caltrain’s baby bullet service.
When the Baby Bullet launched in 2004, Caltrain had about 24,000 average daily boarding; today, ridership is now over 60,000. Ballard’s prediction of 120,000 riders by 2024 would put Caltrain ridership 15 years ahead of the modest growth predictions in Caltrain’s electrification environmental study, which predicts 110,000 riders by 2040. The underlying trends driving ridership- including generational shifts in transportation preferences and transit-oriented development on the corridor show no signs of stopping.
To achieve this goal, said Ballard, Caltrain will need a package of investments, including longer platforms to support longer trains, all-electric service and level boarding to provide a schedule to smooth out capacity peaks, and grade separations to help support more frequent service.
The Baby Bullet anniversary event marked the launch of a coalition of major employers, including Google, Oracle, LinkedIn, Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers, focused on advocating to gather the resources needed to fund and implement the needed capacity improvements.
Since the Leadership Group plays a key role in raising transportation tax funding in Santa Clara County their resolve will be important in ensuring that the upcoming 2016 tax measure will include provisions to support, not only basic electrification, but a package of add-on improvements to support needed capacity increases.
In addition to Caltrain, Jim Wunderman of the Bay Area Council talked about planning and funding additional transit improvements to support demand on the North/South corridor, including ferry service and carpool lanes. Both Ash Kalra, of San Jose City Council and the Caltrain Board, and Jeff Gee, of Redwood City City Council and the SamTrans board, talked about the need for improved connectivity between Caltrain, SamTrans, VTA, BART and other services. The public and private sector resolve to create high-capacity, integrated transit service is promising. Next steps will be the plans around ballot measures, Cap and Trade, and other sources to fund the improvements needed to support the next decade of ridership growth.