Sunday, April 10
Capitol Investment: Capitol Corridor-BART Connection at Oakland Coliseum
Yesterday I used the Transportation and Land Use Coalition Summit as an excuse to take the Capitol Corridor train to Oakland. Barring occasional delays, it's the fastest public transit route between San Jose and Oakland, and it's very comfortable.
It's also a lot more expensive at $11, which is why I haven't taken it in a year and wouldn't use it for my commuting needs unless I had a very good reason. I would guess most people share that attitude (and that only a few of them would choose the primary alternative, BART plus VTA 180).
So, while I'm pleased by the establishment of a new Oakland Coliseum Capitol Corridor station, it's unfortunate that this will connect BART users to an infrequent, relatively costly (i.e., high-fare) service that better serves the occasional traveler than the daily commuter.
What is great about this station is that
- travelers heading southward from southeast Oakland will be able to ride a direct train to Centerville, northern Santa Clara, and Downtown San Jose;
- BART riders will have a southern connection to the Capitol train, in addition to BART's one and only existing transfer in Richmond (not counting a ten-block walk in Downtown Oakland), thereby closing one of many gaps in Bay Area transit;
- Capitol Corridor riders can ride to the Oakland airport and Coliseum without transferring to BART in Richmond;
- and eastern Oakland, eastern Alameda, and northern San Leandro will have a stop on the Capitol Corridor line closer than the existing Hayward and Jack London Square stations.
What's not great is that the service is Amtrak California and not Caltrain. Instead of inexpensive, no-frills, frequent service to several destinations, the Capitol train is relatively plush, provides on-board dining, makes few stops, and costs more--in short, directed at long-distance riders. So, it shouldn't really be called a realistic option for most commuters, and, ignoring VTA's plans to extend BART to Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara, a more Caltrainesque version of the Capitol Corridor could be more beneficial to regional transit.
But, for now, that's not very important. The station will still serve a need; despite the lack of immediate station-area destinations other than the Coliseum, it's almost illogical not to have a BART-Capitol connection there, considering the airport and the proximity of the two services' tracks. Some might use the Capitol train just as a comfortable ride to the airport or baseball/football/basketball game, while others might use it as a commute connection. As an interregional transit node, the station could even spur new development in addition to industry, single-family residences, and sports and entertainment venues already in the area.
I saw the station's construction from the BART train on the way back down to San Jose today. (Somehow I didn't notice it from the Capitol train yesterday.) Shelters are up, the BART-Coliseum pedestrian bridge now has a corkscrew ramp leading down to the platform, and one of the cul-de-sacs dead-ending at the tracks (73rd Avenue) is being modified to accommodate a passenger drop-off area. The station is supposed to open this summer, and it will be a wise investment when it becomes operational.
April 20: Today's Mr. Roadshow column gives the new Coliseum station its first mention in the local media I've seen in a long while.
May 18: The station will open a week from today, at 11 a.m. on May 25.
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