Caltrain laying track for depot access 

Ridership on Caltrain is expected to double over the next 20 years, and with parking spaces at many stations already reaching capacity, the agency is working on finding new alternatives to get passengers to and from its train depots.

Of Caltrain’s 36,000 weekday passengers, just 27 percent walk to their respective stations and only 8 percent take their bikes, rates the regional transit agency wants to vastly improve with its new Comprehensive Access Program study.

The study will work with passengers, cities and counties, transit groups and other organizations to make it easier for walkers, bikers and public transportation users to get to Caltrain stations. Nearly 40 percent of Caltrain passengers use cars to get to stations, and parking occupancy rates at three of the agency’s most popular spots — Tamien, Diridon and Mountain View — are already above 95 percent.

The Comprehensive Access Program study, the first of its kind by Caltrain, will tackle issues big and small — from making signage and directions to depots more visible, to encouraging housing development plans near train stations, agency spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

The relative remoteness of many Caltrain stations — all but three of them are in suburban San Mateo and Santa Clara counties — makes walking to them difficult, said Manish Champsee, a former Peninsula resident and president of Walk San Francisco.
He said the agency should work better with local transit operators like SamTrans and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation

Authority to improve commuter access to Caltrain stations. Also, establishing local housing tracts — projects typically referred to as transit-oriented developments — would be an ideal method to transition passengers out of their cars.

Even though the Caltrain’s new study seeks to attract more bicyclists, the agency has no plans to further expand its carrying capacity for bikes on its current fleet, Dunn said. Caltrain recently increased its maximum bike capacity from 64 to 80.

Andy Thornley, program director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said Caltrain has made great strides to accommodate bicyclists, but the agency could attract increased passengers by adding more secure bike storage sites at its stations. He also said that the agency should plan for greater carrying capacity for bikes when designing its new fleet of trains, which are expected to arrive when Caltrain becomes electrified later this decade.

Tom Radulovich, director of planning organization Livable City and a member of the BART board of directors, said there are many access challenges ahead for Caltrain, mainly because the agency doesn’t pass through any major downtown areas. He said Caltrain should focus on improving pedestrian access points at its train stops, as well as investigate the possibility of relocating or adding stations.

Despite the obstacles looming, Radulovich said the agency is making the right choice by tackling the issue of customer access, something he believes BART failed to do during its inception. Even though BART travels though both downtown San Francisco and Oakland, 49 percent of its passengers drive to stations, a higher rate than Caltrain riders.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 

Track elevation aims to boost pedestrian, car safety

A $165 million Caltrain improvement project that will raise the rails and disrupt traffic over a two-year period, but will make pedestrian and car travel in the area safer at the San Bruno intersection, is scheduled to begin in May, transportation officials said.

The project — which is located in San Bruno at San Bruno, San Mateo and Angus avenues — will elevate the tracks from their current street level to allow for cars and pedestrians to pass underneath, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

Work will begin in May, when a temporary track known as a “shoofly” will be built. Work on the main tracks will begin in spring 2011 and be completed by August 2012, Dunn said.

During construction, street traffic will be blocked from the intersections intermittently. Caltrain schedules should remain on time.
“It’s always our goal to work around construction and maintain a schedule that does not impact trains,” she said.

The $165 million project will be funded by a combination of sources including Proposition 1B, the California Public Utilities Commission and the half-cent tax handled by the San Mateo Transportation Authority.

Dunn said the result will be a safer intersection.

“It’s a very convoluted intersection,” Dunn said. “These are significant safety improvements, with pedestrian underpasses making it easier for pedestrians and vehicles to travel back and forth.”

A public meeting to discuss the project will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Belle Air School to discuss the project’s benefits, time frame and effects.

- Andrea Koskey

 

Filling up


Caltrain is expected to see a major jump in ridership in the next two decades.

35,584: Average weekday Caltrain riders*

39%: Passengers who use a car to get to a station

27%: Passengers who walk to a station

22%:
Passengers who take transit to a station

8%: Passengers who ride their bike to a station

100%: Projected ridership growth for Caltrain over the next 20 years

49%: Occupancy rates of Caltrain’s 7,471 parking spots**

Get involved:

- Submit comments to: caltrainaccess@caltrain.com
- Write to: Caltrain Comprehensive Access Program, P.O. Box 3006, San Carlos 94070-1306
- Deadline for comments is April 29

*Statistics from January
**Statistics from February

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Will Reisman

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