Praise for Caltrain service vision; calls for stronger ridership, connection, diversity goals

At the August Board meeting, there were dozens of public comments and a large pile of letters, praising Caltrain’s transformative service vision, while asking for a more proactive stance on ridership growth; seamless service connections; and diversifying the ridership.

Based on the board meeting and some follow-up research, here are updates and some next steps to support and strengthen the Service Vision:

  • “Aim high” – in board member comments, it sounded like there was an appetite for stronger language to “aim high”. Instead of a more passive approach of refraining from taking steps that would block higher growth, the board was leaning toward a more proactive stance to pursue higher growth if feasible. Since then, the City of San Jose Department of Transportation has recommended to City Council for San Jose to encourage a stronger stance, including actively pursuing funding to enable capacity and connections.
  • “Connected system” – while many public comments called for Caltrain to take a more active stance to support a more connected transit system, with seamlessly integrated schedules, fares, and wayfinding (instead of passively enabling better connections by providing a more regular clockface service pattern, see p. 46), and some board members were supportive, the Service Vision language remains weak. The only policy statement the draft for the board is to study support for “first and last mile connections.”  If you want to see Caltrain integrated into a more connected transit system, with local, regional, and megaregional connections, and haven’t done so already, please sign the “Seamless Transit Principles,” and you will get an update with more steps to take.
  • Diversify ridership. Several board members including Charles Stone and Cheryl Brinkman have spoken up in favor of improving equitable access to Caltrain. At a recent stakeholder group meeting, staff was supportive of an equity analysis to assess opportunities to broaden ridership. Also, at the last board committee and full board meeting, the CFO, chair of the Finance Committee, and other board members supported pursuing direction to expand the GoPass program to cover contractors and workers whose transportation benefits are covered by transportation management associations, which would likely increase revenue, ridership, and equitable access.

The Caltrain board is expected to make some key policy decisions on Thursday, October 3 (date corrected). So your comments and actions before then will be helpful, to encourage Caltrain to “Aim High”, to urge Caltrain to proactively pursue a seamless customer transportation experience with better schedule and fare integration; and to advance opportunities to diversify ridership. Send notes to board@caltrain.com and businessplan@caltrain.com; feel free to copy us at friends@friendsofcaltrain.com

Thanks everyone who has been working to support Caltrain and more sustainable transportation on the Peninsula Corridor and in the Bay Area.