Yesterday I took Caltrain to San Francisco. The train was a few minutes late already before arriving at Redwood City. At the station, I saw some teenagers buying tickets on the other side of the tracks. Just as the northbound train was pulling into the station, they finally bought their tickets and tried to run pass the lowered crossing gates at the north end of the platform. Finally, a sheriff deputy got off his SUV parked nearby and caught them at the gate.
Of course the deputy had been waiting for that moment. These teenagers could have waited another 10 seconds for the gates to go up. Typically trains don’t leave the station that quick. Instead these teenagers miss their train and probably each received a $271 ticket.
As much as I feel bad for them for receiving pricey tickets, it is the same carelessness that have ended many lives and caused many delays.
Even with the enforcement, I think Caltrain can do more to discourage people from crossing the tracks illegally. At Redwood City, the ticket machines are located at the center of each platforms, but people can only cross the tracks at each end of the station. If there’s a pedestrian tunnel at the station, or ticket machines located closer to the crossings, people wouldn’t have to walk so far between the ticket machines and the platforms. Clearly a pedestrian tunnel is the best as it would eliminate the need for anyone to walk across the tracks.
To avoid getting a ticket, you should not cross the tracks once the bells sound, even before gates drop. I know a Caltrain advocate who tried to do so but got a ticket. He later fought it in court but was unsuccessful. Legally, there’s no such “yellow light phase.”