Sunday, May 31, 2009

Transit Riders Organize in OC

Kudos to my friend Steven Chan, who is organizing transit rallies while in med school.

Friday, May 29, 2009

How CalTrain Could Increase Revenue: Station Cats

It worked in Japan! A commuter/light-rail railway appointed a calico named Tama as stationmaster for one stop, and ridership jumped 17%!

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

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bike Shopping (for Wini)

Ever since we moved, Wini has gotten much more interested in biking. The new neighborhood is pretty bike-friendly, and full of other kids out riding.

One of our favorite outings is to go downtown to Yumi Yogurt.

(Wini has no problem balancing the practicalities of dressing for riding a bike with style--she must be reading the RidingPretty blog.)

For her 9th birthday (!) she received a certificate "valid for one new (geared) bike" which we redeemed last weekend at Talbot's; she went for a Lustre 2:

Tonight we made a family trip up to San Mateo by train to pick it up. Not quite Nathan's first train ride, but only #3 or #4 (here's his first). The new bike's a sweet ride! Plus Wini got to bring it home on the bike car (granted my back's a little sore from lugging two bikes at once). Tomorrow we can start working on shifting.

Some Train-Accessible Events this Weekend

The San Mateo History Museum, in the Old Courthouse building in Redwood City, is hosting an Immigrant Day Festival on Saturday, the 16th. Performances in courthouse square, food tasting in the rotunda.

On a trip to San Mateo, we passed a "new used bookstore", the "B St Bookstore", (on B St, duh--between CalTrain and Talbot's Toyland), having it's grand opening Saturday. Looks promising.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Should Public Officials Run Public Transit?

I read this via BATN:

Published Friday, May 8, 2009, by the Daily Post (Palo Alto)

Bike ban suggested

Caltrain board member Jim Hartnett said yesterday that the agency should consider banning bikes after a bicycle advocate called on the agency to continue making more room for riders.

"I am concerned that we are never going to meet (the demand)," said Hartnett, a Redwood City council member [BATN: who will not be seeking re-election due to term-limits]. "We have to consider whether or not we should continue to provide that service."

Later in the meeting, Executive Director Michael Scanlon said that the board should consider charging a fee for bikes to board Caltrain.

On Feb. 5 Caltrain approved a plan to increase bike capacity on its trains by removing some seats on its bike cars.

First of all, after many years of bikers' complaints about bike capacity, CalTrain has only just now made a tiny allowance for more riders... so to complain that the railway may never be able to meet bikers demand for space is pretty pissy considering that is has not actually tried to meet it.

Second of all... WFT? You're complaining that people want to ride your trains? How annoying. Why limit your annoyance to bikers. Even "normal" passengers make constant demands for more trains, faster trains, and better service. They're never satisfied.

It'd be nice to be treated like a customer for once, instead of some kind of freeloader!