Wednesday: Caltrain CAC to discuss schedule changes; rider survey shows demand for improvements

On Wednesday evening at a meeting starting at 5:40pm, the Caltrain Citizens’ Advisory Committee will hear a staff presentation on how Caltrain prepares schedule changes, and will have an opportunity to discuss schedule improvements.   The meeting will be at Caltrain headquarters, 1250 San Carlos Ave near San Carlos Caltrain.

While more substantial improvements to Caltrain frequency and speed are going to need to wait until electrified service in five years or so, it may be possible for schedule tweaks to better serve riders in the mean time.  To assess interest in schedule tweaks, Friends of Caltrain conducted a survey of riders, asking about the schedule tweaks they’d most like to see before electrification.

According to the survey, riders  would love to see Caltrain restore 30 minute off-peak service (which was eliminated in the last recession).  To alleviate crowding, riders asked for more “shoulder peak” commute service earlier and later in the peak period, especially earlier and later baby bullets.

There are also notable constituencies for better San Jose and South County service – returning from San Jose later in the evening (where service stops 90 minutes earlier than San Francisco), and better service to stops South of Tamien, where there has been a lot of housing added but service remains poor. For Tamien and other stops, it would help to have better station access- bus, bike, and parking.

A notable group – 18% of respondents, wanted to see better connections with BART at Millbrae, with several mentioning Southbound and evening service (it’s cold in the Millbrae wind tunnel for a long winter wait).

Weekend baby bullets have been popular. Multiple respondents would like to see additional weekend baby bullets, and several asked for earlier weekend service.  For several respondents, an afternoon baby bullet would help with mid-day meetings and alternative schedules.

It would be helpful for Caltrain to review areas where housing and employment has grown since the last schedule overhaul.  There is a notable contingent seeking better service at Cal Ave, which has seen office growth and services the major Stanford Research park employment center. Several mentioned areas with new major offices near Caltrain, including Google’s offices near San Antonio.  Several respondents mentioned areas with new housing near Caltrain, including Sunnyvale, that might justify additional service.

Caltrain Schedule Suggestions

Caltrain Schedule Suggestions

Respondents added many detailed suggestions in the comments for schedule refinements. There were 120 responses to the survey.  The survey was not a random sample of Caltrain riders, and the number of responses were moderate – Caltrain may want more rigorous study to verify the demand for some refinements, however the survey does highlight a variety of commonly desired improvements.

Here is the list of detailed schedule improvement suggestions, anonymized for privacy.

If you’re interested in learning more about Caltrain’s schedule planning and have suggestions to share, please come to Wednesday’s evening’s meeting.  Or add your thoughts in comments.