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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.

Archive for the ‘Caltrain’

VTA proposes useless airport transit connections

VTA is reviewing a set of service changes, including changes that make transit service to San Jose airport nearly useless.  The good news is that VTA is proposing a new Line 11 that would connect San Jose Diridon Transit Center to the San Jose International airport.  This sounds like a brilliant idea, since Diridon is a major transit hub with full Caltrain service, the Altamont Commuter express, long-distance Amtrak service, light rail, and numerous buses.  Unfortunately, VTA proposes a route frequency of every 30 minutes.  Adding up to a 30 minute transfer to/from the main train or bus means that time-sensitive airport passengers are exceedingly unlikely to use this new route.  If VTA’s goal is to attract airport passengers, the frequency needs to be much higher.

With the added transit connector to from Diridon to the airport, VTA simultaneously proposes to cut service to VTA connector line 10 from Santa Clara Transit Center to the Airport from every 15 minutes to every 30 minutes.  So, in addition to adding a useless connection from Diridon, VTA is proposing to make the current connection from Santa Clara useless as well.

Airport passengers are time-sensitive and risk-phobic, wanting to take no chances at missing long-distance flights. If VTA wants these services to appeal to airport passengers, they should be more frequent. If Diridon 11 is intended to be the preferred airport route, the frequency should be at least every 10 minutes. 


VTA is also proposing that the Diridon 11 should have a standard-priced fare; unlike the free 10 shuttle.  For airport passengers who are paying up to hundreds for the trip, $2 extra is not a major deterrent, but a 30 minute wait is fatal.

If you do not want VTA to make its transit connections to SJC useless, come tomorrow to the community meeting on Monday, March 23, 6:30pm at the VTA Downtown Customer Service Center, 55-A West Santa Clara Street, San Jose, or send email to

VTA is proposing numerous other route changes, including changes for service to Sunnyvale, DeAnza College, and other locations.   Check out the list of changes, and give VTA feedback if they affect routes you’d use.

A revised transit service plan incorporating public comment will be presented to the VTA Transit Planning & Operations Committee on April 16, 2015, as well as VTA’s Board of Directors on May 7, 2015, for review and approval.





Caltrain discloses price tag for next-wave capacity improvements

At last Thursday’s Caltrain board meeting, in an update on a Short Range Transit Plan Draft required for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrain revealed the nature and price tag of a Phase 2 of the Caltrain electrification project.

Electrification Phase 1 that will provide cleaner, faster, more frequent service in 2020/2021, by giving the trains electric power (but only 75% of the diesel trains are planned to be replaced on day 1, because there isn’t money to replace them all)

The proposed Electrification Phase 2 project would provide about twice the peak hour capacity compared to today’s system, by
*  expanding the platforms to take longer trains that carry more riders
* upgrade platforms to allow level boarding, which provides 50% speed improvement over and above basic electrification
* replace the remaining diesel trains with electric, enabling cleaner, faster service, and transition to level boarding

Caltrain estimates the price tag for Phase 2 to be $624 million, over and above a cap of $306 million in cost increases for Phase 2 since Caltrain updated it’s 2008 estimates.

This information will be important for the regional decisions about what to cover in 2016 ballot measures. The Phase 2 project proposal does not include any funding for grade separations to improve safety and reliability.   San Mateo County has funding set aside for grade separations due to previous county transportation revenue measures, but Santa Clara County does not.

Caltrain Electrification Phase 2

Caltrain customer confusion – holiday shopping schedule

On Black Friday, we heard several reports of Caltrain customer confusion, with people who didn’t know that Caltrain was running a Saturday schedule.   On Friday, BART and SamTrans were running regular weekday schedules.

Did you do any of your holiday visiting, errands and shopping via transit?  I took Caltrain to a Thanksgiving dinner and carpooled home – I regularly find the early closing Sunday schedule for holidays to be a pain for holiday travel – do you? Share your holiday transit stories and schedule wishes in comments. 

December community meetings, BART to Silicon Valley

For those interested in the project to connect BART to Caltrain at Diridon, and the other stations that might or might not get build as part of the plan (Alum Rock, Santa Clara, Downtown San Jose), VTA has confirmed three meeting dates and times have been confirmed during early December.

Monday, December 1, 2014, 6:30pm
School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza
1700 Alum Rock Ave, San Jose

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 6:30 pm
VTA Customer Service Center
55 West Santa Clara Street, San Jose

Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 6:30 pm
Santa Clara University, Locatelli Hall – Bldg. 710
500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA

Caltrain reports progress on platforms with HSR

At the last Caltrain board meeting, General Manager Mike Scanlon and electrification project lead Dave Couch talked about progress that had been made in technical and management discussions with High Speed Rail about the potential for platform compatibility.

If Caltrain and High Speed Rail use different platforms, that has the potential to limit Caltrain ridership, by limiting the amount of service to Transbay, which currently has 3x the number of jobs within a half-mile than the rest of the line put together.

The agencies expect to report on progress and options to the Caltrain and Transbay board in December (not in November).

There are several open questions, as the agencies work together as possible solutions.

1) Are all of the reasonable options on the table?

The Caltrain/HSR compatibility blog reports on a bi-level Electric Multiple Unit train- the preferred design for Caltrain, because it can fit the most riders with the best performance for Peninsula corridor.

High Speed Rail has been claiming that 50″ platforms, which are harder for Caltrain to adapt to, are needed to achieve the project’s speed goals. However, Clem Tillier reports that the world speed record (357 mph) was set by a modified TGV Duplex bi-level train, with a lower platform. Given the benefits to High Speed Rail of maximizing the capacity of the blended system, High Speed Rail should be looking at all reasonable options also.

2) If there are compromises, will they be worthwhile? Will the agencies provide their boards the information needed to make the decisions?

Some of the options available to Caltrain could result in lower speed and/or lower capacity. Given the overall speed benefits of accelerated level boarding and ridership benefits of full service into Transbay, there are probably some level of tradeoffs that are worthwhile, and some tradeoffs that are not.

In order to give the boards the information needed to make the decision, it would make sense for Caltrain and High Speed Rail to report on the results that would be achieved with the various options. Meaningful metrics include:

* Capacity into/out of Transbay – for the various options, how much peak hour service can be delivered from the space-constrained Transbay terminal? This which will be a huge driver of ridership for the system as a whole
* Peak hour capacity for Caltrain, considering the impact of level boarding on dwell time and schedule. Level boarding can help even out the rush hour schedule, and enable greater use from the existing trains.
* Caltrain speed for an average trip (20-30 miles).
* Operating costs increases or decreases for various options

It is at least good news that the agencies are taking the issue seriously, since the outcome will affect the amount of service available on the Peninsula Corridor for many decades to come.

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