In response to the blog post on The State Rail Plan and the Caltrain Network, we heard back from the Caltrans State Rail Plan team thatÂ we’d put a finger on something important that the report didn’t call out by name.Â TheÂ post Â identifiedÂ that something was missing in categorizing Caltrain as a classic “commuter rail” system.
CaltransÂ staff told us that the underlying modeling for the State Rail Plan actuallyÂ modeled Caltrain (and some other corridors in major metros)Â with 15-minute frequency, all day, both directions, to local stations.Â Without giving it a name (yet), the State Rail plan already was assuming that Caltrain (and other corridors) would transform to provide a service patternÂ similar to what France calls “RER”, or Germany calls “S-Bahn” – frequent, all-day service with local stops, integrated with other local and long-distance services in the metropolitan area, generating much higher ridership per investment in train seats and miles of track.
Caltrain’s metrics suggest it’s already on the verge of being something different,Â Â carrying bi-directional traffic, and generating more thanÂ 10x the number of passengers per route-mile than other servicesÂ in the category.Â Electrification creates the opportunity to flip the switch to the new service pattern, and higher ridership.
This is an important concept – and we think it would be powerful for the State Rail Plan to give it a name and to make the point explicit!Â Around the rest of the world, metropolitan areas have evolved their rail lines that started as “commuter rail” into electric, all-day, frequent services, well-integrated in schedule and pricing with localÂ service.Â Â Comments are due on the draft State Rail Plan by December 11 – the draft and comment info are here.
In order to call it by name, though, the service pattern needs a name. People who are familiar with global models such as the French RER and the German S-Bahn sometimes call it “regional rail.”Â Â But for a US customer audience, this blogger’s concern is that “regional rail” would connote services that are even longer-distance, less frequent, and more expensive than conventional “commuter rail” – the opposite of what these global service models deliver.
I’m suggesting “regional metro” to mean a hybrid that provides a frequent, all-day, integrated metro service pattern, and connects out to the region.Â Do you like this, or have better suggestions? What do you think?
But it classifies Caltrain with classic commuter rail services. The service pattern envisioned isnâ€™t differentiated from other â€œcommuter railâ€ services in the plan: â€œintegrated all-day, express, and local service between San Francisco and San Jose, allowing all stations to be served at least half-hourly, and to connect with the Statewide rail network in San Jose.â€
This term makes perfect sense to me! And it’s in line with BART’s moves to recognize it’s “regional metro” role by introducing three-door cars and turning trains back for more frequent service in its “core” stations.
Regional Rail isn’t bad. While it is, in fact, regional … I’m not sure you need that word in the service type name.
I like “Metro Rapid” or just plain Metro. As in “Caltrain has evolved from “commuter rail” to a Metro Rapid service.
Metro comes from metropolitan (as in metropolitan area â€“ not just necessarily limited to one city, but the whole area/region). Many transit systems or even subway-like rail services have or use the term metro.
By calling it Metro Rapid, or even “Metro Rapid Rail”, we’re emphasizing it’s not a milk run … it’s fast, frequent, heavy rail transit (vs. slower light rail or subways), and typically only stops once or twice per city (vs. frequently like subways, light rail or buses).
I worry that Regional Rail sounds more like less frequent non-transit rail … more like the Capitol Corridor trains where you’d better consult a timetable. Metro connotes high-frequency transit â€” the kind where you really don’t need to check a schedule during its service hours.
Thanks Adina, great topic. I like Metro Rapid also (with Rapid picking up the meaning of the E in RER and the S in S-Bahn). It captures both the speed and frequency differences vs. Commuter Rail (which for now Metrolink, Coaster and SMART all are).
The term Metro is already owned by subways, including the LA Metro Rail (and aspects of Muni Metro and BART where they are underground in SF’s core).
The term Regional really does imply connecting to our hinterland, including ACE and Cap Cor, rather than our twin large cities of SF & SJ. As the Bay Area Council and others promote increasing our employment cachement region to include San Joaquin, Sacramento, Merced & other counties, ‘Regional’ doesn’t imply the special high-population mission of Caltrain.
Regional Express Rail? It’s what Toronto calls it!
South Bay Metro.
Did the Caltrain staff know if the modelers assumed any infrastructure upgrades other than electrification? Can the Caltrain corridor run 4 trains an hour at all times on top of high speed rail without quad tracking?
…or Regional Rapid Rail, R3…
[…] be better if the board was willing to take a stand and come out in favor of evolving into “regional metro“, RER/S-bahn type service.Â International models presented at the stakeholder group suggested […]