Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Creatively Pruning Weekend Service

We've made many weekend jaunts on CalTrain, and would certainly hate to loose weekend service.

That being said, the service leaved a lot to be desired. Just running one train an hour makes impromptu trips a couple stops up and down the line kind of tricky (let's face it, if we didn't just like trains, a SamTrans bus poking along El Camino, slow-as-heck but running every 15 mins or so, would probably be a more rational choice). But stopping at every station, with CalTrain's usual long dwell times, makes it painfully slow for trips longer than a couple of miles.

CalTrain is facing a budget crisis and considering dropping weekend service altogether (even though I've seen plenty of packed weekend trains--but I suppose it makes some sense to axe one part of their service altogether rather than let the whole go to pot). I wonder, though, if CalTrain might be able to prune their weekend service in ways that would save money and at the same time leave a service that was still useful to some riders--maybe evn more useful than their current service?

Let's take a look at the current weekend schedule. Trains depart from both ends, on the hour, making all stops, taking 96 mins to make the whole run. Obviously, an hour into that run, two more trains are departing from their respective termini--so there's a total of four trains on the line for most of the day.

The number of simultaneous trains, and their crews, are the key to CalTrain's costs. Suppose we could reduce that. Here's a few scenarios:

  • Bullets Only: Prune the schedule to a handful of stops, until the run can be made in under an hour--so only two trains need to be on the line, cutting costs in half. This abandons local service, but leaves a much more appealing express service--a half hour or less, say, from some midline stop like PA or RWC to 4th & King.
  • Semi-Bullets, 90 min Schedule: Another way to run the system with just two simultaneous trains--reduce frequency to every 90 mins, but serve all major stops, and provide a reasonably good travel times between them.
  • Northern Peninsula Only: Let's face it, this is the area where people actually care about CalTrain. So what if San Mateo county were to kick down a few bucks and pay for weekend service that particularly fit our needs? Run from SF down to RWC, then head back. Be slightly selective about stops (probably express between SF & Millbrae) and you might be able to make the run in under half an hour, so theoretically the whole service could be operated with just one train.

Taking the kids to the mall

1 comment:

murphstahoe said...

Official word. No cuts to weekend service. Midday service to go to every other hour - probably removing those reasonably useful (for me anyway) midday limiteds. Caltrain is actually going to raise their parking fees. Now that's shocking.