Caltrain business plan needs stronger direction

On Thursday December 7, the Caltrain board is being asked to review the scope of work for the important business plan effort that will shape the nature of electric service for years to come.
The good news is that, in SPUR’s words, the project is scoped as a sophisticated, innovative and business-minded initiative – and deserves investment and international expertise to do it justice.
Unfortunately, the draft business strategy appears watered-down and value-neutral.  (see pages 13 and 14 of the staff report presentation),
The section on service strategy has a value-neutral goal to “provide maximum value to customers.” At the stakeholder workshop that Caltrain held in Redwood City earlier in the year, stakeholders around the region expressed robust opinions about service vision, and it would be better if the board made stronger statements of direction.

Many stakeholders spoke in favor of frequent, all-day, all-week service that was well-integrated with local and regional transportation. It would 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. International models presented at the stakeholder group suggested that such a service vision would likely be stronger financially than a traditional American commuter rail service. It’s possible that analysis would show some fatal flaw, but it would be better to start with a goal as a hypothesis to test.

Caltrain-bizplan-service-vision
The section on working with cities is similarly anodyne, proposing to “minimize impacts and maximize value.” It would be better if the board were to come out in favor of a stronger strategy to collaborate with jurisdictions to improve mobility by increasing transit, walking, bicycling, and by enabling growth to be focused in transit-rich areas, with less traffic congestion.If you look at the paragraphs on service strategy and on working with cities

 Caltrain-bizplan-local-vision
 It’s good to see that the scope of work does include exploring governance options, which will a difficult but important process.
What do you think? Should the Caltrain board set stronger directions as hypothesis to test in the business planning process?