Saturday, August 13
Caltrain Schedule: Great for Some, Backwards for Others
It's odd that Caltrain's new schedule provides more frequent service to lesser-used stations at midday than at rush hour. Belmont, for example, receives two trains per direction per hour from about 9 to 4, but service is hourly during potentially higher-ridership times.
The same is true for San Antonio and its newly transit-oriented environs, the subject of a Mercury News report today. As in Belmont, here the trains stop more frequently between the rush hours than during them. Despite various parties' obvious long-term commitment to providing (or at least attempting to provide) for Caltrain a dedicated community of riders by establishing a dense, mixed-use neighborhood at the tracks' edge, Caltrain reduced service to the location to allow Baby Bullet and limited-stop trains to skip the station. While managing to increase and speed up overall service during a time of funding shortage is impressive and is beneficial to a large subset of riders (including me in Downtown San Jose), it's not without drawbacks:
If you're going to clear the tracks for high-speed trains, you have to cut the number of locals. And San Antonio isn't the only loser. Thousands of people were sidetracked by the Baby Bullet boom when service to their stations was reduced or killed altogether. My husband is sputtering about the cuts at his station, California Avenue near the Stanford Research Park, where trains now stop only once an hour during commute times.
But the slow death of San Antonio is particularly noteworthy. It shows that fostering a long-term vision is tough when the only thing that counts is today's ridership figures.
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