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Thursday, March 12, 2009
  $1 million for bike park and ride
By Yokota Fritz 
The Portland, Oregon regional TriMet transit agency announced they will spend $1 million in Federal ARRA (stimulus) funds to expand and improve bike parking facilities throughout the Portland transit system. That $1 million will create 250 new bike parking spots at two stations and upgrade another 100 bike lockers at another station.

"More riders are using bikes to get to transit, and with limited options for bringing bikes on board, having more secure bike parking facilities helps to make the bike/transit connection work," said TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen.

Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay Area, in the meantime, will receive $200,000 in ARRA funds to add 8 additional bike spots on each of 32 bike cars. With at least 4 trips for each bike car during the work day, that's a capacity for over 1,000 more bicycles every day, and the work will be complete within the next 60 days.

Caltrain has provided four times the capacity of TriMet's bike parking at one fourth the cost and in less time.

Accommodating bikes on board transit is a win for transit agencies that serve suburban populations. Encouraging bikes on transit expands the pool of potential transit users significantly, probably more than any other accomodation you can make for the price.

See also Why Transit Needs Bikes.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009
  Caltrain: Expect more consistency in bike car configurations
By Yokota Fritz 
At the Caltrain Joint Powers Board meeting today in San Carlos, CA, operations staff told board members they would make a best effort to configure two bike cars on consistent trains.

For northbound trains, these will "almost always" be on trains 207, 211, 217, 231, 261, 267, 275, 277, 383, 287. FWIW, I consistently see bumps on northbound 323, 225 and 329 in the South Bay, generally in Sunnyvale or Mountain View.

Southbound trains with two bike cars will be trains 210, 312, 216, 220, 228, 230, 362, 266, 372, 378, 386. In the evening, I sometimes ride #266 (got bumped once last summer), and I can almost count on getting bumped from 264, 368 and 372 in Palo Alto when the weather is nice.

Boarding NB Caltrain at Palo Alto


The two bike cars are not guaranteed as Caltrain may be constrained by equipment malfunctions and "other operational needs." According to information from today's meeting and now published on Caltrain's website, these trains will consistently be Gallery or "old style" trains, which have a much higher capacity that the newer Bombardier cars.

At the meeting, Caltrain staff also said they have signs planned that can be mounted to the front of the train so cyclists waiting on the platform can see if an approaching train has one or two bike cars.

Caltrain also said they plan to convert the two non-bike cab cars in the fleet into bike cars as funding becomes available. Currently, two of the Bombardier cab cars are not bike cars.

Finally, Caltrain staff said they have a design in mind so that bike capacity can be increased to 24 on the Bombardier cars that sacrifices only four seats, instead of eight seats as originally thought.

Thank you to Murph for liveblogging this information from the JPB meeting this morning. Thank you also to Ravi for publishing some of the updates to Twitter/bikecar.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009
  Caltrain meeting NOT Wednesday (it's on Thursday)
By Yokota Fritz 
Bah, the Caltrain meeting is this Thursday, in San Carlos. Not Wednesday in San Mateo. There's a reason my wife handles my appointments.

I'll I will not be at the Caltrain Joint Powers Board meeting tomorrow in San Mateo Thursday in San Carlos. While the Caltrain Bikes on Board program isn't directly on the agenda other than a rubberstamp approval to accept ARRA/stimulus money from the Federal government, a few other bike people will be there and it's important to keep the Caltrain Board updated on how the users of their system are faring.

Update: I changed my mind -- I won't be at this meeting. I'll be at the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission meeting instead, where they'll discuss how to spend the ARRA "stimulus" funds on transportation projects.

In February, the Caltrain board accepted a resolution to add more bike space to existing bike cars. About three weeks ago, a Gallery "old style" bike car appeared with 4 seats removed and two bike racks added. You'll see the extra racks toward the back of the car.

Bike car extra racks early configuration


See also that these racks are shorter than the existing racks. According to Caltrain's Mark Simon, the shorter racks are to enable access to the emergency exit windows.

Caltrain new bike rack


There's some concern that the shorter racks won't secure the bikes as well and may scratch the bike frames, though any bike on Caltrain will get scratched and dented no matter what. I've only seen the racks once (I got to the station early one morning and boarded four different trains looking for the modified gallery car) so I can't comment on how well these shorter racks work.

What are your thoughts on these experimental shorter racks?

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Thursday, February 12, 2009
  California budget agreement eliminates transit funds
By Yokota Fritz 
If the new proposal to bridge the state budget gap is adopted, public transit providers will be finished commiserating over ongoing state budget cuts.

That’s because the latest plan to emanate from the “Big 5” budget negotiators doesn’t just cut public transportation funding – it eliminates it.

STA fund uses

In the Bay Area, State Transit Assistance (STA) funds provide operational expenses for The Altamont Commuter Express Train. Santa Clara County VTA uses almost $10 million in STA funds to fund paratransit and other operations. Santa Cruz Metro receives about $2 million from the STA program. Monterey-Salinas Transit depends on STA for about 10% of their operating funds. San Benito County Transit will lose $200,000 of funding.
Already saddled with an 85 percent raid on available state funding sources via the budget adopted in September, transit operators throughout the state are now bracing for what has long been considered the “Armageddon” scenario – the abolition of the State Transit Assistance (STA) program, the only ongoing source of state funding for day-to-day transit operations. STA accounts for as much as 70 percent of the operating budgets of transit agencies in California.

Expected to be taken up during legislative floor sessions on Friday or over the weekend, the plan calls for $536 million in transit cuts, achieved through the cancellation of the remaining $230 million due to transit agencies from the September budget’s STA allotment of $306 million and the eradication of the entire $306 million in fiscal year 2009-10. The $306 million was established as a baseline figure after $1.8 billion in current-year transit-dedicated funds were diverted to fill non-transit holes in the General Fund.

Democratic leaders had originally sought to preserve the STA at a bare bones $150 million level, as contained in their December version of the budget. But the most recent reported agreement reveals an apparent capitulation to demands by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Republican leaders to completely eliminate the program.

“Are Republicans and the Governor that bent on destroying public transit that this one last crumb of funding is really seen as making a significant difference in the budget crisis?” wondered Joshua Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Association. “And why after indicating all along that they understand the dire circumstances faced by transit providers throughout the state did the Democratic leadership ultimately cave?”

Shaw noted that transit agencies throughout the state have already enacted or contemplated combination of fare increases and service reductions to cope with the $3 billion in state funding that has been raided in just the last two years alone, and warned that more such drastic measures are on the way. “We will see fare increases. We will see service cuts. We will see layoffs,” he predicted. “I can say that with certainty simply because we’ve already seen those things happening even before the state apparently decided to abandon its responsibility to fund public transportation.”

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Thursday, February 05, 2009
  Caltrain approves modest bike space increase
By Yokota Fritz 
24 bikes on Bombardier cars, 40 bikes on Gallery cars

George and Theo
After long discussion and input from several cyclists, the Caltrain Joint Powers Board (JPB) decided to increase space for bikes on board Caltrain bike cars. The 'new style' Bombardier cab cars will have room for 24 bikes, up from 16; the 'old' Gallery cab cars will go from 32 bikes to 40 bikes. According to Caltrain Operations Director Chuck Harvey, Caltrain can have these higher capacity bike cars in service by April.

Mr. Harvey's recommendation to the JPB included removing all seats from the lower level of the 'Bomb' cars, leaving no room for cyclists to sit nearby. Almost every one of the two dozen cyclists who gave public comment expressed their concerns about theft in a configuration that the SFBC calls "Stand or Steal." Several people joined SFBC Program Director Andy Thornley and California Cyclist publisher Bob Mack and asking the board to consider an extra month of consideration.

The SFBC proposal for 80 bikes on board each Bomb consist was rejected for a number of reasons, including the desire to reduce risk by keeping changes to a minimum. Caltrain operations people are apparently big believers in the law of unintended consequences.

JPB member Ken Yeager of Santa Clara County, who is himself a regular bike commuter, introduced the compromise motion for 24 bike space, rejecting any delay because the immediate need for more capacity.

The JPB and Mr. Harvey made it clear that these are changes that can be made in the short term. With today's approval, Mr. Harvey says we can expect to see increased capacity beginning in April.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009
  Caltrain bicycles on board: ideas and proposals
By Yokota Fritz 
Tomorrow (Thursday, February 5, 2009) at 10 AM, the Caltrain Joint Powers Board meets to hear and consider various proposals that Caltrain staff will present on increasing bicycle capacity on board the trains. One of the proposals that Caltrain Operations Director Chuck Harvey and special assistant Mark Simon may give is increasing capacity on the 'new' Bombardier bike cars ('bomb cars') to 32 bikes by removing all seats from the lower level.

Mountain View Caltrain evening commute


The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Bikes On Board committee has come out strongly opposed to what they call "Stand or Steal." Because there are no seats on the bike level, cyclists will either need to stand for their entire trip, or sit out of view of their bikes, risking theft. SFBC member surveys show that bike theft is a major concern for their membership.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition counters with their own proposal: All bomb car sets will always have at least two bike cars, and increase bomb car bike capacity by removing seats and adding bike racks to the mezzanine levels. Eventually, the SFBC would like the lower level of all bomb cars converted to bike space.

There are some varying dynamics between morning southbound and northbound Caltrain passengers. In the mornings, relatively few passengers boarding at 4th and King in San Francisco have bikes, leaving hundreds of empty passenger seats, while cyclists are routinely bumped even in the winter. At the San Jose side of things, however, the passenger cars are jam packed, with more crowding on in Sunnyvale and Mountain View before they begin to detrain in Palo Alto and on the Peninsula. The bike cars also are full, but bumping typically doesn't begin until Sunnyvale on northbound trains.

Crowded bike car


What will the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition propose during tomorrow's meeting? As things currently stand, the SVBC will also reject "Stand or Steal" and insist on more bike cars on all trains to (1) deal with capacity issues and (2) make capacity more consistent. Currently, you don't know if you can expect 16 spaces or 64 spaces for bikes on a train. The SVBC will also encourage Caltrain to get creative to come up with some kind of real time notification system for those along the line.

Another idea that's been floated is increasing capacity on bomb cars to 24 bikes in the lower level; this means fewer seats, but at least a few will be available and a thief won't know if the bike owner is nearby or now.

Something I would personally like to see: Priority boarding for cyclists on the bike cars. Presently, non-cyclist passengers have boarding priority, and there's tremendous crowding at the bike car (always the north car) because that's the train car closest to shuttle bus stops. Cyclists are forced to wait for all other passengers to board because they don't have the option of boarding in another car, which increases dwell time, or the time the train sits at the station. If cyclists have boarding priority, the other passengers have the option of boarding at different cars. Furthermore, cyclists are more likely to find a seat on the bike car once they board.

Who's attending this meeting? I'll be at the Caltrain JPB meeting tomorrow with probably hundreds of other cyclists. Come early if you ride the train: I imagine the trains to San Mateo will be absolutely jam packed for this meeting.

Caltrain is getting crowded


If you show up at the JPB meeting, here are my endorsements:
  • Reject "Stand or Steal."
  • Insist on at least two bike cars on every Bombardier ('bomb') train set. Caltrain will need to rip seats out of additional cars for this to happen. Eventually, I think Caltrain should make every Bomb car a bike car on the lower level.
  • Additional room on Gallery (old style) cars by removing the lower seats.

Disclosure: I'm on the "Caltrain Working Group" for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. I mostly show up at meetings as people much smarter than me talk about the issues of bikes on board Caltrain.

Resources:

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Sunday, January 25, 2009
  Economic stimulus and transit funding
By Yokota Fritz 
The process is moving quickly, so please act quickly!

An early draft of the economic stimulus bill made provision for funding transit operations in addition to spending on construction projects for a total of $20 billion for transit. In the horse trading that always occurs during the legislative process, the operations grant funding was eliminated altogether along with another $8 billion in transit construction (while highway spending wasn't decreased at all).

Caltrain San Jose Diridon Station

Transit systems nationwide struggle to finance their operations in spite of surging ridership. In the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas:
  • San Benito County Express in Hollister and San Juan Bautista raised fares 33% earlier this year and will reduce service 35% effective on February 1, with some routes eliminated entirely.
  • Monterey-Salinas Transit hiked fares 25% this month, though they were able to avoid service cuts.
  • BART projects an $80 million budget deficit over the next 18 months. The BART board is contemplating fare increases, charging more for parking, and eliminating planned extensions in Fremont and east Contra Costa County.
  • San Francisco Muni projects a $90 million budget shortfall over the next 18 months. SF MTA will discuss this at a special meeting on January 27.
  • SamTrans in San Mateo County (the Peninsula) will hike fares 17% in February.
  • Caltrain increased fares on January 1. Caltrain is the commuter rail service between San Francisco, San Jose, and Gilroy.
Some of the current problems are due to the budget logjam at the state level, but almost all San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area transit services depend on local taxes for part of their operating revenue. Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District, for example, reported sales tax revenue was more than $100,000 below budget for November 2008, and revenue is expected to drop off much more this year as Santa Cruz County unemployment now stands at 10%.

Menlo Park Caltrain What good is an economic stimulus of workers can't get to their jobs, or can't afford the transportation to get there? John Kaehny writes this at Streetsblog:
Congress is fiddling with a 1950s-era stimulus package while America's transit systems burn. You name the city, and its transit system is falling off a financial cliff.

So despite big increases in transit ridership, many transit providers are cutting service and even laying off drivers. Yet not one cent from the $825 billion stimulus package would protect America's bus and subway riders from massive service cuts and fare hikes.

The stimulus package is political cognitive dissonance on an epic scale. The proposed stimulus plan not only shortchanges public transit overall, it provides zero aid for day-to-day operations.

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) plans to offer an amendment to return the $2 billion for operating assistance to the economic stimulus bill, on top of the $10 billion already in the bill for transit capital projects. DeFazio needs the support of the House Rules Committee to ensure that the amendment is in order. The House Rules Committee meets Tuesday at 3:30 PM to discuss this amendment.

The Democratic Party House Rules Committee members are Chairwoman Louise M. Slaughter (NY), Alcee Hastings (FL), Doris Matsui (CA), Dennis Cardoza (CA), Peter Welch (VT), Kathy Castor (FL), Michael Arcuri (NY), and Betty Sutton (OH). The GOP members of the Rules Committee are David Dreier (CA), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL), Doc Hastings (WA), and Pete Sessions (TX).

To learn what you can do, please visit Transportation for American Transit cutbacks information page for details and who to call.

Elsewhere: Reminder: If you think this article worthwhile, please press the social media links below for Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Delicious, etc. I really appreciate it!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008
  What Measure B means for South Bay transit?
By Yokota Fritz 
The Santa Clara County Registar reports Measure B is now (as I write this) at the required 66.67% approval required to pass by just eight votes as of Monday's tally. With thousands of ballots left to go, the VTA sales tax to fund BART to Fremont is too close to call.

Here's my prediction if the final count shows this sales tax passing if Federal funds are received to fund the BART extension in to San Jose and Santa Clara.

* The sales tax revenue projections will be off by as much as 50%. The projections assume a growing economy, which is not what will have for the next couple of years. VTA announces service cuts on its existing bus and light rail lines and reduces funding for Caltrain.

* Finance costs will be much higher than projected because of the credit crunch. VTA announces more service cuts on bus and light rail lines.

* Construction costs is a hard one to call. This may be less expensive than projected because of an good supply of labor and construction materials. On the other hand, much higher costs for raw materials may offset some of that.

* Once operation begins, ridership and revenue will be far below projections, forcing VTA to cut service elsewhere in the system just like SamTrans had to do. VTA will eliminate all funding for Caltrain.

* Carl Guardino and all of those other Measure B promoters will still drive their cars to work, if they're still employed in the Bay Area when the BART extension is complete ten years from now.

Ah well, what's done is done.

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Monday, October 06, 2008
  Caltrain hits truck in Burlingame
By Yokota Fritz 
Southbound Baby Bullet train number 312 struck a big rig near the Broadway station in Burlingame this morning, delaying up to 15,000 commuters as Caltrain singletracked around the mess.

Train hits truck


The tail of the big rig was reportedly hanging over the tracks when the express train screamed through the intersection. Witnesses say the gate crossing and signals were all working when the idiot truck driver, who suffered minor injuries, tried to beat the train through the crossing.

Photo by "AlienVenom".

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Thursday, October 02, 2008
  Caltrain bikes on board: Compare and contrast
By Yokota Fritz 
Benjamin Damm submitted this photo to the Caltrain board today showing the load on the bike car and a regular passenger car on a couple of morning trains out of San Francisco.

This photo posted by Murph to Holier Than You. Cyclists planned to attend today's Caltrain Joint Powers Board meeting en masse to call attention to what they feel is Caltrain's misdirected focus on improving bicycle access and parking, rather than the successful bikes on board program.

See also today's WIRED Autotopia post on Caltrain's bikes on board program, which links to Cyclelicious.

Personally, I'm close giving up on bringing my bike on the train. The evening bus schedule for the final leg of my commute changed just slightly so that I must now leave work a half hour earlier than before just so I can be home at the same time, which really really reeks. I'll probably do like my friend Dan does, who leaves a bike locked at both ends of his commute. I just don't care for the idea of leaving a bike locked overnight every night in Palo Alto. I'm now looking forward to the rainy season, which should put a significant dent in the number of cycling commuters on the train.

Crowded Caltrain bike car


Murph just sent this UPDATE: Caltrain to explore more bikes on board.

For more transit news -- including Caltrain electrification and BART to Santa Clara County -- see recent posts at VTA Watch.

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Monday, August 11, 2008
  Caltrain Bicycle Access and Parking Plan now online
By Yokota Fritz 
As I reported last month, Caltrain renamed their much maligned Bicycle Master Plan the "Bicycle Access and Parking Plan." The draft version of Caltrain's Bicycle Access and Parking Plan is now available online. Previously, you had to be on the Silicon Valley Board of Directors to see this plan.

Caltrain Mountain View


The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition response to this proposed "Access and Parking Plan" highlights the lack of any thought at all to increase capacity on board. At a recent Caltrain Joint Powers Board meeting, several train riding bicyclists spoke up to the Directors on the need to increase bike capacity.

Thank you to Murph for this news. Related:

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Friday, August 08, 2008
  Bay Area bicycle and transportation news
By Yokota Fritz 
Urban Costume Karaoke Bicycle Brigade: Tomorrow in Dolores Park.



Santa Cruz rail line to be purchased. The Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission agreed yesterday to pay Union Pacific $14.2 million for the 32 mile stretch of railroad from Davenport to Watsonville. County residents already use the railroad right of way for bicycling and walking, and Union Pacific has apparently been worried about liability, while enforcing their property rights results in criticism from the community. The county plans to establish and rail trail along the railroad while operating a recreational rail service along the corridor. The rail trail will become part of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network. Union Pacific currently runs three freight round trips each week on this branch line.

More:


Chinese Acrobats at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Watch acrobats perform at the Beach Bandstand area of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk Sundays through Thursdays until August 21. Shows are at Noon and 3pm Monday through Thursday, Noon and 6pm on Sundays. Their gig includes tricks with bicycles. Shows are free.

Caltrain updates, etc.

The Caltrain Joint Powers Board met yesterday. Some quick notes.
  • Some 20+ cyclists showed up to give their input on the Bicycle Master Plan. Caltrain staff proposes adoption of the plan (which doesn't address capacity), but JPB directors seem to "get" the idea now that capacity should not only be maintained, but even expanded.

    San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has taken the lead among Bay Area bicyclist advocacy groups in pushing Caltrain to adopt a plan that better services bicyclists. SFBC published their own Caltrain bike plan online (PDF), as well as a rebuttal to Caltrain's bike program FAQ.

  • SF Examiner looks at the issue of charging extra to bring bikes on board Caltrain. “I’m not crazy about that idea,” Caltrain boardmember Jerry Hill said. “We want to encourage people to use their bicycle, and during peak commute is when people need transit. Many people who ride bicycles don’t have the luxury of having other forms of transportation and I don’t think we should penalize them for doing the right thing.”

  • In other business, the JPB voted to increase Caltrain fares after public hearings. While Caltrain reported record ridership of nearly 12 million riders from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, increasing fuel prices impact Caltrains operating budget. "Even though the ridership is up," says JPB vice chair Don Gage, "it's still not enough to keep up with the rising gas costs."

  • Peninsula cities don't want High Speed Rail and are joining a lawsuit against the California High Speed Rail Authority. Boo to them.

  • VTA Watch examines the proposed 1/8 cent tax to bring BART to Santa Clara. Hurray to Palo Alto councilor Yoriko Kishimoto, who speaks out against bringing BART to San Jose.

  • A 'suspicious device' was reported at the parking garage next to the Sunnyvale Caltrain station late Wednesday night. Officials closed the garage to public access and the Santa Clara County Sheriff closed the Sunnyvale Caltrain station at 10 PM. Caltrain established a bus bridge between Mountain View and Lawrence Avenue. At midnight the bomb squad determined the 'device' was not dangerous and allowed people access to their vehicles in the garage. Caltrain operated normally the next morning.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008
  Caltrain bike car updates to your mobile device
By Yokota Fritz 
Yes, you can receive information about Caltrain bike cars in real time on your phone or other mobile device. Here's the step-by-step guide to receiving Caltrain bike car information below the photo.

Mountain View Caltrain evening commute


Update: Ravi (who provides this community supported Caltrain update service) wrote his own "Getting Started" guide. His his better, I think. Mine is wordier. Both will get you there.

1. Sign up for Twitter.

2. After signing up and logging in to Twitter, visit the Devices page, fill in the details of your mobile device and follow the instructions to activate receiving "tweets" to your phone. Set "Device Updates" to "ON." Note you can also limit the times when you receive messages from Twitter.

3. While logged in to Twitter, visit the Twitter Bike Car page, click "Follow" and set "Device Updates" to "ON." After this you should start receiving bike car messages to your phone.

4. You can expect to receive about a dozen bike car messages per day. Keep this in mind if you pay for each short message received.

5. You probably ride the same 2 or 3 trains every day. LEARN THE TRAIN NUMBERS of the trains you ride. The last two digits of the train number are mounted on the mirror of the front car or locomotive. For example, northbound train #329 will have "29" in big black numbers on both front mirrors on the cab car.

6. Let the other cyclists on the platform know when you receive an update.

Caltrain train number


Volunteers (I'm one of them) provide the updates who enter this information, so you may or may not get bike car status for your train. I'm posting this mostly for the benefit of those passengers I see boarding in Sunnyvale or Mountain View every morning. They obviously don't see the bike car status I just sent 10 minutes beforehand. You can pretty much count on status for one or more of northbound trains 225, 227, or 329 each morning.

More techno-nerd information about this community supported service is at Ravi's website, who set it all up in the first place. Thanks Ravi!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008
  Northbound and Southbound Caltrain delayed today
By Yokota Fritz 
Northbound. A broken rail near Morgan Hill, California delayed northbound Caltrain service this morning, with trains originating in Gilroy delayed up to an hour as passengers were bused around the breakage. Passengers crowded onto unfamiliar trains as dispatchers combined multiple routes into single trains. The break, which is also holding up freight rail traffic, was discovered early this morning by Union Pacific.

Fritz of Cyclelicious was among the first to tweet the breakage to the Caltrain Twitter feed and providing train delay information even before the platform announcements were made.

Today also marks the first time I've heard reasonably accurate delay announcements over the PA speakers at the train stations. In the past, the delays have always been very vague such as "expect delays of up to an hour." This morning, the announcer actually announced train numbers and approximate delays in minutes! Kudos to Caltrain for this.

Southbound. Some southbound trains were also delayed after the engine on train 324 quit working. Southbound trains behind #24 were forced to wait while train number 226 coupled up to the disabled train to push it out of the way. Caltrain Tweeters report southbound trains are running as much as an hour late. If somebody has photos of the two trains #24 & #26 coupled together I'd love to see those pictures; please leave a link in the comments.

To receive real time updates on Caltrain issues on your phone, sign up to Twitter and "follow" Twitter Caltrain. Be sure also to set up Twitter and your mobile device to send and receive these updates from Twitter. An analogous bike car info service is Twitter Bike Car. Click here for information on how to contribute to these Twitter feeds.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008
  Position paper on Caltrain Bicycle Master Plan
By Yokota Fritz 
The board of the directors of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition met over the weekend to create a response to the draft of the Bicycle Master Plan proposed by Caltrain. The SVBC put the position paper online and is seeking member input, both online and in person. The SVBC Board will have a meeting on Thursday July 10th at 6pm at Kapp's Pizza Bar & Grill i Mountain View specifically for the purpose of discussing the Caltrain Bicycle Master Plan with the membership.

Activist Jym Dyer of San Francisco posted his thoughts to the SFBIKE list on the role of advocacy and what he believes should be done to improve the Caltrain Bicycle Master Plan. I reproduce them below with his permission. Remember, Caltrain is accepting comments on the draft plan until July 3.

Bikes on board is a success that built Caltrain's ridership, enhanced its reputation, and has been studied by transit systems all over the nation. Yet Caltrain overlooked the fact that their newer trains will only hold half as many bikes, and again failed to give the program any consideration when working on the current "Bike Master Plan." They didn't even *try* to maintain, much less enhance, this program; in fact their stated goal is to achieve a bike rider share of 5%, which is terrible given that they have already achieved a share of 7%. (7% is a figure for
February and serves as an underestimate for warmer months.)

An activist's role to provide vision and push to have it implemented. That's exactly what Cap Thomas and others did to make bikes on board a reality, and then to make it a success. Our vision must include context that Caltrain is overlooking. Allow me to suggest three "big picture" puzzle pieces:

(1) A bike+train combination gets you door to door, making it the *only* option that matches the (heavily-subsidized) convenience of cars for these distances. That's why bikes on board has been such a success. That's why whittling away at this convenience with schemes like requiring two bikes and locker rentals, charging fees to reserve spaces, and the current failure to provide capacity, are all bad ideas.

(2) Bikers actually make the least demands on transit overall. Non-biking riders generally require parking, buses, and/or shuttles, burdening roads and/or transit systems. Usually the comparison is made between bikers "needing more" than other riders, but that only makes sense if the other riders are all walking at both ends of the train journey, and the number of people who can do that is extremely small -- much smaller than the number who can bike at both ends.

(3) From the public meetings I attended, I got the feeling that this "master plan" is driven by the type of funding Caltrain goes after. They apply for "pilot" project grants, use them to try something out for 3 years or so, then let it whither. This results in disjoint, wasteful policy. I don't see why
they can't go after "project" grants to enhance an existing success story, taking a proactive role in making a case for it, if necessary.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008
  Thursday: Bike or transit?
By Yokota Fritz 
Thursday, June 19 is free transit day in the San Francisco Bay Area. Transit will be free until noon on BART, Caltrain, ACE Train, Amtrak Capitol Corridor, and the Bay ferries. Transit will be free all day on all participating Bay Area bus and light rail providers. See this page for details.

I can't decide whether to bring a folder and ride the train to take photos and video of the insanity, or to just enjoy myself and ride my bike the entire distance.

Which should I do? What will you do?
  • Bring a folding bike and document the fun on Caltrain.

  • Avoid Caltrain altogether and ride my bike the distance from San Jose to Palo Alto.
Help me decide!

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Thursday, June 12, 2008
  Caltrain: More bike parking
By Yokota Fritz 
There's been a lot of discussion this week on the SVBC and SFBike lists about Caltrain's Bicycle Master Plan. The first public is tonight in San Carlos; I plan to attend the Monday evening in Mountain View if I can get out of work early enough.

Mountain View Caltrain evening commute

Some points to discuss and consider:
  • Because transit connections to get commuters the last mile from the train station to work or home are often non-existent or poorly connected in the Bay Area, bicycles enable commuters to bridge that gap from home to the station and from the station to work. I can get to work without a bike, but doing this adds 30 minutes to my already long commute (from the walking and waiting for connections) and reduces my flexibility dramatically -- I must leave work earlier and I get home later.

  • Caltrain is getting very crowded with bicyclists and non-cyclists. Even trains that previously were nearly empty in the past are at capacity these days, especially on the bike cars.

  • Caltrain claims they can't increase bike capacity without reducing capacity for other passengers. Walking passengers are never bumped, though, even at the most crowded. If bike capacity is increased at the expense of seat space, there is still room for non-cycling passengers, even if many of them need to stand in the aisles (like cyclists are needing to do now).

  • Caltrain estimates that boarding bikes adds about 250 hours of delay per year, because cyclists take longer to board than other passengers. The dramatic drop in on time performance in 2008 is probably due mostly to increased use of Caltrain by bicyclists.

  • Caltrain plans to electrify by 2014, so they're reluctant to simply add cars that will be unusable by Caltrain in a few years. Adding cars to diesel train consists also slows service and impacts schedules.

  • According to Caltrain, about 9% of train commuters ride their bikes to Caltrain, with 1 to 2% locking them at the station and the remainder bringing them on board. 37% drive to the station or are dropped off; 19% use other transit; 29% walk and 8% use a free shuttle.

  • There are 1,900 bike parking spaces along the entire Caltrain system, which is not nearly enough these days. At San Jose Diridon Station, for example, there are 24 bike lockers and zero bike racks. Compare that to 600 car parking spots at that station. If we use the current ratio of 1 bike rider for every 3 motorists, there should be 200 bike parking spots at San Jose Diridon. Adding secure bike parking is very inexpensive compared to adding car parking, yet car parking is available at below market rates and even free at some stations.

  • Many (most?) cyclists are unwilling to leave their bikes locked up overnight, and many are unable or unwilling to spend the money for a second bike, which is what would be required for many commuters to get to work.
Caltrain says they want to increase the number of cyclists biking to the train station, but because bike capacity on board is maxed out they want to encourage bike parking. Some of the other ideas they plan to present include bike sharing and a folding bike subsidy.

Caltrain bike pain elsewhere:
  • Green Caltrain: "The Bicycle Master Plan, unfortunately, will be a big disappointment for some bicyclists who want to see more bike capacity on trains. The plan focuses primarily on bike parking issues. For various reasons, Caltrain is putting the controversial issue of bicycles on trains off the table."

  • 295Bus on the new Entry/Exit door labels on Caltrain Bombardier bike cars.

  • Sub20OLH had been ranting a lot about Caltrain this last week:
    • A new day: "Caltrain needs some more funding - now. I definitely want them to get a little smarter - but the system is breaking down."
    • Bumped: "I was late because I was bumped at Mountain View from the 5:03 train. I had to wait for the 5:37, and made it on but 10 others were bumped. That train then bumped 10 at Menlo, and 10 at Redwood City..."
    • Caltrain falling apart: "Why are they late? Dwell time is through the roof. Caltrain is surely blaming the cyclists. The conductors are surly. What is going on?"
    • Caltrain is falling apart: History.

  • The Itinerant Cyclist goes bumpity bumpity: "Train 227 gets to Mountain View about 10 minutes late, I am early enough to catch it, but the house is over full so I take the gentle push to stay behind rather than fight for one of the spots standing in the vestibule. Train 231, my normal train, is due in just a few minutes anyway. Then 231 shows up with Bombardier equipment and only 1 bike car, so max of 16 bikes total on the train and there are 15 on the platform waiting to board. So it was waiting another 20 minutes for the next train, which had room for only 13 bikes and there were about 18 on the platform. But I fought this one out and got on that train."

  • San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Caltrain Bikes on Board information and Caltrain Campaign Page.

  • Caltrain Bicycle Master Plan information.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008
  Caltrain Bicycle Master Plan public meeting
By Yokota Fritz 
First meeting Thursday, June 12 in Santa Rosa San Carlos

Nearly 2,400 customers bring their bikes on board Caltrain each weekday. Caltrain runs out of space these days as demand exceeds the space on board the trains.

In an effort to address this issue, Caltrain is developing a Bicycle Master Plan that focuses on ways to improve bike parking at its 10 most-popular stations. Over the last year, staff has conducted extensive surveys of existing bike parking facilities and solicited input from bicycle advisory groups and Caltrain bike riders.

Caltrain will hold three meetings to hear comments about its key findings and recommendations. The meetings will be held:

  • Thursday, June 12 at 6 p.m.
    San Carlos Public Library, 2nd floor, meeting room A
    610 Elm St., San Carlos

  • Monday, June 16 at 6 p.m.
    Mountain View City Hall, Plaza Conference Room
    500 Castro St., Mountain View

  • Tuesday, June 17 at 6 p.m.
    Genentech Hall, Room S201
    University of California, San Francisco
    600 16th St., San Francisco


Now is the time to submit your comments regarding this plan. Click here to review key findings of the Bicycle Master Plan. To comment, attend one of the public meetings, send an e-mail to bikeplan@caltrain.com or write to Caltrain bicycle Master Plan, P.O. Box 3006, San Carlos, Ca 94070. Comments will be accepted through July 3.

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  Thursday June 12: Spare the Air
By Yokota Fritz 
Thursday, June 12 will be a Spare the Air day in the San Francisco Bay Area. Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy tomorrow. Clear skies, hot temperatures, and light winds will combine to produce poor air quality for the Bay Area. Commuters are asked to help prevent smog tomorrow by using public transit, walking or biking to work; using a carpool or vanpool; and telecommuting.

Unlike past years, public transportation is not free. The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission decided that providing free transit is not a cost effective way to reduce air pollution, with a cost of about $400,000 per ton of reduced emissions.

The SF MTC will provide one final free transit day on Thursday, June 19. With record ridership on all Bay Area transit systems and high demand because of gasoline prices, I'm calling this "avoid Caltrain day."

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Friday, February 29, 2008
  Tips for public transit
By Yokota Fritz 
I was spaced out after a long day of work last night, sitting on the train and staring out the window. A vague click of "that's strange" popped in my mind as we passed an Amtrak Capitol Corridor stopped on the tracks south of Santa Clara. I woke up a little when I saw the guy hosing the tracks down and thought "that's strange," and finally realized what must have happened when I saw guys in police jackets walking across the tracks. There was, unfortunately, a fatality when the Amtrak Capitol Corridor struck a guy walking on the tracks near the College Park train station.

Text message Caltrain delays

My southbound train wasn't delayed much, but Amtrak had to set up a bus bridge from San Jose to Great America, and northbound Caltrain was delayed up to an hour. I Twittered the delay, but I don't know how many train riders follow my Twitter feed. Afterwards, I discovered the Caltrain information Twitter, through which multiple train riders can post information about Caltrain delays. Thank you to 295 Bus Blog for this good tip. This is not a Caltrain service, but one provided by cooperating train riding volunteers.

Transit schedules on your phone / PDA

Noah keeps photos of transit schedules in his mobile phone for easy access when he needs to catch the bus. A thought I had: grab a text version of bus and train schedules you're interested in and message them to your phone. I have a current Caltrain schedule pasted to the back of my office door for quick access.

Caltrain multiple bike cars

If your eyes are sharp, you can see if a Caltrain consist is equipped with a second bike car, especially on the old "Gallery" car trains. All bike cars are also cab cars, which is the car in the lead when the locomotive pushes the train. The cab cars (and bike cars) have rear view mirrors at the end of the car, and the front window of cab cars are also much shorter than normal. Look for the mirror sticking out from the side of the train and you've found the second bike car.

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Monday, February 04, 2008
  Crazy bus passenger
By Yokota Fritz 
Santa Cruz metro bus crashed into hill - taken from santacruzsentinel.com A whacked out bus passenger on the 91 commuter express between Watsonville and Santa Cruz, CA grabbed the bus steering wheel and crashed the bus into the adjacent hillside in Santa Cruz County.

The unnamed passenger saw his girlfriend's car in -- get this -- a suspected DUI accident on the side of Highway 1 south of Santa Cruz. He demanded to be let off immediately, but when the bus driver told the passenger he would be let off at the next exit, the passenger grabbed the steering wheel and steered the bus into the hill. The passenger was arrested almost immediately, I'd guess by law enforcement officers who were already at the scene of the earlier accident. What a piece of work. Read more in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

I had a nice quiet ride home on my commuter bus this evening :-)

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Thursday, January 17, 2008
  Amtrak strike would impact Caltrain, other commuter rail services
By Yokota Fritz 
Update: Strike Averted -- "Amtrak and nine of its unions have reached a tentative contract agreement, according to industry experts, and plan to announce the settlement on Friday."

A possible strike by Amtrak workers on January 30 would stop commuter rail service in the San Francisco Bay Area as well commuter rail service in the areas around Chicago, New York City, Boston, Virginia, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Philadelphia. Thank you to Jennifer for the heads up.

SF Examiner: Amtrak strike would derail Caltrain service.

Associated Press: Rail Strike Would Be Commuter Nightmare.

Associated Press lists commuter rail services that would be impacted by an Amtrak strike. Chicago Metra, Long Island Rail Road, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Maryland MARC, Virginia Railway Express, Connecticut Shore Line East, and San Francisco Bay Area Caltrain are either operated by Amtrak employees or use facilities controlled by Amtrak and would be impacted by the strike.

Chicago Tribune: Specter of Amtrak strike has commuters bracing for shutdowns.

Chicago Business News: Amtrak strike could close Union Station to Metra riders.

Newsday: Amtrak strike would derail LIRR riders at 5 stops.

NJ Transit issues strike warning.

Philly.com: Amtrak strike could shut 6 SEPTA lines.

Boston: Amtrak strike could cripple commuter rail service.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008
  VTA: Big route and schedule changes on Monday
By Yokota Fritz 
Remember, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has big changes in routes and scheduling that begin Monday morning, January 14, 2008. While VTA will provide more frequent service on a number of bus lines and convert a number of routes to "Community Bus Service" using smaller buses, several routes have also been eliminated, shortened and combined with other routes. Route 60, for example, will not continue south beyond the Winchester Transit Center, and Route 22 will no longer serve the Menlo Park Caltrain Station. Visit the VTA website (which has been significantly redesigned) for details.

Public transportation to MacWorld

Apple fans heading to the annual Macworld Conference and Expo at the Moscone Center Jan. 14 – 18 can focus on technology rather than traffic and parking by taking Caltrain to The City.

Attendees of the week-long conference will find Caltrain’s 96 weekday trains a convenient way to avoid the city’s traffic and parking hassles. All northbound trains end at the San Francisco Caltrain Station at Fourth and King streets. From there, passengers can either walk to Moscone Center, approximately six blocks away, or they can catch either of Muni’s 30 or 45 lines, which stop right across from the train station on Fourth Street. They can get off at Third and Folsom, and the Moscone Center is just a block away at 747 Howard St.

The last southbound train leaves San Francisco at 12:01 a.m., which leaves plenty of time for the most ardent Mac user to spend a full day at the expo and spend some time sight-seeing or dining in The City as well.

Secure bicycle parking is available at the new bike station at the 4th & King Caltrain Station in San Francisco. Caltrain schedule and fare information is available at Caltrain website. Leave a comment here at Cyclelicious if you have a specific question about riding Caltrain.

BART considers increased bike lockers fees

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system considered increasing the annual locker fees charged at BART stations and introducing an hourly charge for lockers with electronic locks. For details, read the Examiner.

Infrequent BART users should also be warned that BART recently changed its service to SFO Airport. You can no longer head straight to SFO from Millbrae Caltrain, but now must go to San Bruno then backtrack to the airport. Regular travelers to SFO have discovered it's faster to get off Caltrain in Hillsdale then take a bus to the airport.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007
  Caltrain: Cyclists turned away as ridership surges
By Yokota Fritz 
From the San Jose Mercury News:
It's 5:15 p.m., rush hour at Caltrain's Hillsdale station in San Mateo. Among the dozens of riders arrayed across the platform to catch the northbound "Baby Bullet" express train, the most watchful are the bicyclists.

They're hoping they don't get turned away.

Ridership is soaring amid high gas prices and global warming fears. The bicycle program is a well-established hit, with about one in 15 Caltrain riders bringing their wheels on board. Caltrains are getting so crowded at peak commute hours that not everyone's bike can fit on board. So when a Baby Bullet pulls out of the station, a handful of the rail line's most dedicated customers are left in the cold.
Read the full story in the Mercury News. I ride Caltrain daily on my commute and I'm amazed at how crowded the bike car remains. This morning, many of the usual riders were on the train in spite of the rain and cooler weather. I took the below photo in the summer of 2006 -- the bike car now looks like this in winter 2007.

Full bike car

The Highway 17 Express bus from Santa Cruz to San Jose also remains crowded, although in the winter I'm often the only cyclist. Now that we have WiFi, incidents like this 14 car pileup this morning means I sit longer on the bus hooked to the Internet.

If you take public transportation for your commute, are you seeing similar ridership increases in your area?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007
  Caltrain: 2 more trains on weeknights
By Yokota Fritz 
Holidays are over Caltrain announced a proposed schedule change effective in March 2008 that will add one southbound and one northbound train during week nights.

The northbound 191, which currently leaves San Jose Diridon at 8:10 p.m., will be moved to 7:30, with subsequent northbound trains leaving at 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.

Southbound 190, which currently leaves San Francisco 4th & King at 7:20 p.m., will leave 10 minutes later at 7:30 p.m., with subsequent trains at 8:30, 9:30, 10:30. The final train to leave the city will still be scheduled for departed at 12:01 a.m.

The schedule changes are prompted by record ridership this year on Caltrain, with standing room only on the busier commute time trains.

Visit Caltrain's website to see the proposed schedule changes for March 2008. Caltrain is seeking public comment on the proposed changes at public meetings next Tuesday, November 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The meetings will be held at San Francisco 4th & King, Caltrain's administrative offices at 1250 San Carlos Avenue in San Carlos, and at San Jose Diridon Station. Caltrain is also accepting comments on the proposed changes via email at caltraincomments (at) caltrain dot com.

More Caltrain news:
    Caltrain schedules are now in Google Transit. Here are the transit directions from San Francisco 4th and King to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California.
  • The Caltrain Holiday Train makes an appearance on the weekend of December 7 - 9 at various stations in the Bay Area.
  • Caltrain reminds travelers to take Caltrain to avoid traffic and parking hassles when flying from SFO or SJC.
  • Caltrain will run on a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving Day, and a regular weekday schedule on the Friday after Thanskgiving. Take the train to the City for your Black Friday Christmas shopping.

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Monday, October 08, 2007
  Google Transit integrated into Google Maps
By Yokota Fritz 
Google announced that Google Transit has graduated from Google Labs to become a fully integrated feature of Google Maps. When you request directions in Google Maps, if transit information is available within the requested area, you can click on "Take Public Transit" to get information about public transportation for your trip.

Google Transit integrated into Google maps

The public transit trip info includes stop location, travel time and fare, along with a driving cost comparison. Google Transit can handle connecting routes from multiple connecting transit agencies.

Although Google Transit has information on a number of U.S. and overseas transit agencies, more can certainly be added. In my area, for example, Santa Cruz Metro, Caltrain, SamTrans, SF Muni and AC Transit are all missing, among others. It's up to the transit agency to contact Google and provide the necessary information, so contact your local public transit agency and encourage them to participate in this system. For the transit agency, the primary benefit is more visibility to casual Google Maps users of available transit options.

Via.

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Monday, October 01, 2007
  Wi Fi on Highway 17 Express bus begins December 2007
By Yokota Fritz 
The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that Hwy 17 buses to go wireless. I ride the Highway 17 Express bus from Santa Cruz to San Jose on my commute. This will be nice. Santa Cruz Metro operates this service with funding from Santa Clara VTA, Amtrak, and probably the California Air Resources Board. The Wireless Internet grant is supposed to encourage more commuter use of the Highway 17 Express bus, although all of the commute-time buses are already full.

In other news, I saw the aftermath of this bad wreck on Sunday afternoon. Traffic was backed up from near the summit all the way past my home in Scotts Valley seven miles away for the entire afternoon, and in the late afternoon the backup stretched all the way around to Highway 1 almost to Soquel Drive in Santa Cruz.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007
  Caltrain nixes WiFi
By Yokota Fritz 
After Caltrain demonstrated wireless Internet access in a proof of concept last year, Caltrain received two proposals for providing WiFi. Unfortunately, Caltrain's Joint Powers Board has had to reject those proposals as too expensive and too restrictive. Bummer.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007
  Bay Area Spare the Air August 29
By Yokota Fritz 

Wednesday, August 29th is a Spare the Air/Free Transit day in the San Francisco Bay Area. On BART, Caltrain, the ACE train and the ferries, transit will be free until 1 PM. Transit will be free all day on Bay Area buses and light rail.

That means the train bike cars and bus and light rail bike racks will be packed full, which probably means I'll ride my bike the entire distance to work tomorrow.

For a complete list of participating transit agencies and to plan your trip on transit, visit 511.org.

More info also at SpareTheAir.org.

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  Transit General Manager drives to work
By Yokota Fritz 
Michael Burns is the General Manager of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. His annual salary is $290,000.

When he was recruited from San Francisco Muni in 2005, Burns elected not to move from San Francisco to the South Bay. Consequently, he has a daily commute of at least 50 miles.

Burns -- remember, he manages a transit agency -- uses his $9,000 annual car allowance to drive to work every day. Except on those days when he's fed up with the traffic -- on those days, he uses taxpayer money to pay for a room at the Holiday Inn near his office on North 1st Street in San Jose. He decides "it's too much" to drive home after experiencing "two or three horrendous commutes."

Here's a radical suggestion for Micheal Burns to avoid that nasty congestion on 101 or 280: take the train! He could even drive part of the way to someplace like Millbrae, which has a huge parking lot. From San Jose Diridon, he can hop on the light rail to his office, though it might be a little faster to use the DASH shuttle to 1st and then hopped on the LRT line. From the River Oaks Light Rail station, which is served by two LRT lines, it's a short walk to his office. He just has to walk across the big Park-and-Ride lot and he's there.

The last Caltrain train leaves San Jose at 10:30, so there's probably plenty of time to catch a train after those late night meetings.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007
  Bay Area Regional Rail plans
By Yokota Fritz 
The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission, BART, Caltrain, and the California High Speed Rail Authority are unveiling a new blueprint for expanding the system of passenger and freight rail in the San Francisco Bay Area. A series of public meetings in the area will show the proposals to move people and freight through the region in the next 50 years and describe how the regional rail network works in conjuction with the proposed California high-speed rail, along with proposed alternatives for how high speed rail will come into the Bay Area.

The San Francisco Bay Area Regional Rail website includes interactive maps that describe the regional rail network. See the website for a schedule of open houses and presentations that begin today in Oakland, San Jose, Suisun City, Livermore and San Carlos.

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Friday, August 10, 2007
  Bay Area bicycle news
By Yokota Fritz 
Traffic demand management is a big deal at major events in San Francisco, where parking is at a premium. When locals go watch the San Francisco Giants play at AT&T Park, many of them take Caltrain and SF Muni right to the stadium. Bike Valet Parking provided by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is also heavily used. See the Streetsblog video of how it works.

Forbes Magazine reports on the how unhealthy our long commutes are. "It's a lifestyle choice," says David Rizzo, author of Survive the Drive! How to Beat Freeway Traffic in Southern California. "We put our health second. To have a big house, we're willing to put up with smog and a big drive. We sacrifice our longevity for short-term gains."

Warm Planet Bicycles has opened a new bike parking service at the 4th & King Caltrain station in San Francisco. The 1600 square foot facility is provided free to use and has room for up to 100 bicycles. See photos of the new facility in Jym Dyer's Flickr pool.

Longtime bicycling advocacy Alex Zuckermann died in his Berkeley home on Sunday. He was 86 years old. He founded the East Bay Bicycle Coalition 35 years ago to make the Bay Area more bicycle friendly and continued his advocacy until his death. For insights into his life and spirit, see these old letters from the San Francisco Chronicle:
Caltrain has begun a series of bicycle workshops as a part of the Bicycle Master Plan process. Each bicycle workshop is a one-hour tour at a Caltrain station with staff to discuss bicycle parking, bicycle access to and within the station area, and way-finding. To register, contact Celia Chung at (650) 508-6388 or chungc (at) samtrans.com. The schedule for remaining workshops are.

Station Date / Time Register By
San Jose Diridon Tues 8/14 6 PM 8/9 Thu
Redwood City Wed 8/22 6 PM 8/17 Fri
Palo Alto Wed 8/29 6 PM 8/24 Fri
San Francisco Thur 9/6 6 PM 8/31 Fri
Hillsdale Tues 9/18 5:30 PM 9/13 Thu
Mountain View Thur 9/20 5:30 PM 9/17 Mon
San Mateo Tues 9/25 5:30 PM 9/20 Thu
Sunnyvale Thur 9/27 5:30 PM 9/24 Mon

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Monday, May 21, 2007
  Caltrain bicycle survey
By Yokota Fritz 
Caltrain -- the commuter rail service between San Francisco and San Jose, California -- is working on a new Bicycle Master Plan. Caltrain has posted a survey and asks commuting cyclists who take the train, as well as past bike+train users and potential bike+train commuters, to take the survey. Caltrain is evaluating their options and wants to gauge the response to potential changes. Among some of the possibilities mentioned in the survey:
  • Charging extra for bike car access.
  • Additional bike parking at busy stations.
  • Moving the bike car to the southernmost train.

Over the past two years, Caltrain usage has exploded to the point where commute-time trains are at capacity. Caltrain seems to want to encourage bike commuters to park their bikes at the train stations in order to relieve some of the crowding that's now occuring on the bike cars.

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Monday, May 14, 2007
  Santa Cruz: Wireless internet possible on the Highway 17 Express
By Yokota Fritz 
Santa Cruz Metro, which operates the Highway 17 Express commuter bus service between Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, and San Jose, is considering offering wireless Internet access to passengers. A survey on the bus will ask riders what they would like in WiFi service for the commute across the Santa Cruz Mountains into Silicon Valley.

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Friday, April 27, 2007
  Commuter checks for sale
By Yokota Fritz 
Here's a quick followup to yesterday's article: Commuter checks for sale and wanted on Craigslist.

While we're talking scams and transportation, here's another common one: You can cut the magnetic strip on a BART ticket, cut it into smaller strips and create multiple new BART tickets. For those not familiar with BART in the San Francisco Bay Area, entry into and exit from the BART platform is my sliding tickets with magnetic stripes through an automatic ticket reader that opens a gate.

Other transit providers in the Bay Area use visual inspection, though I'm sure there are folks creating ticket forgeries.

Since I'm writing about Bay Area transit...
  • While Caltrain and BART raises fares to cover increased operating costs, VTA considers reducing fares to boost ridership. Caltrain and BART are often filled to capacity and are able to charge more, while VTA buses and light rail often run empty.
  • The Bay Area Air Quality Management District hasn't decided yet how they will manage free transit on "Spare the Air" days. Over the past few years, free transit has been offered on several days when unhealthy levels of ozone is forecast. The Air Quality District is considering reducing the benefit to a half day of free transit on the more expensive trains and ferries while continuing to offer a full day of free rides on Bay Area buses.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007
  Caltrain fare increase
By Yokota Fritz 
Caltrain fares to go up 25 cents per zone. Starting Monday, April 2, Caltrain’s will implement a new fare increase. The new fares will increase by 25 cents per zone. There is no change to fares within a single zone. In June 2006, the Caltrain board voted to implement this increase to help cover escalating operation costs. Passenger fares cover approximately 40 percent of the cost to run the service.

Monthly passes for April will be sold at the new fare rate, even if purchased before the 2nd of the month. My two zone monthly pass goes up from $99.50 to $106.00. See the full fare structure here.

Caltrain also announced a change to seven southbound morning-commute train departure times. See changed San Francisco departure times here.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007
  Google maps now shows Bay Area transit
By Yokota Fritz 
Google Maps now shows a limited subset of transit stations in the San Francisco Bay area and other U.S. cities.
Google Maps and transit stations

Caltrain stations, BART stops and some VTA light rail stations are shown on the map. Even ACE stations are included, as are Amtrak stations in California and nationwide.

In the Bay Area, San Francisco Municipal Railroad stops are missing unless they happen to be at the same location as BART stations. Most VTA light rail stations are listed, though the Winchester line running south from San Jose Diridon to Winchester is missing.

Elsewhere in the US, Chicago CTA stops and Metra stations are listed. New York City, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Boston, Los Angeles.

U.S. cities with light and commuter rail that have not been included are Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Pittsburg, King County WA, and St. Louis.

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