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March 07, 2022


Barking Dog

Maybe Pine can personally loan Caltrain 500K again

Paloma Ave

I'll say it again.

Dump the 1830's technology.

In the post-pandemic world public transportation is out.


I spent more than half my career using Caltrain to commute up to SF and down to Sunnyvale. I was a big supporter of Caltrain. But I think significant commuting on Caltrain is over. As Paloma points it is not useful anymore in the age of fear.

We have proved ourselves unworthy of managing our affairs. We blindly bought the Covid narrative and the last two years have shown that the population here in California can be jacked around to do anything out of fear. Anytime the powers that be want to, they can turn off our ability to commute freely, and they will do so. There is no way we should expect Caltrain to be a reliable mass transit solution anymore. The Health department and the teachers unions have more power than the Transportation department, and certainly more than citizens.

Now that is not to say that we need to dig up the tracks and sell off all the trains. I suggest we keep the tracks and keep a few trains that we can retrofit with messaging to be able to run them up and down the line for promoting the latest group think. Maybe add some public address speakers to replace the horns and large video monitors on both sides of the cars to get the messages across. Big video screens are better than the printed advertising Caltrain was using because the video screens can cycle the promotions in many languages for those that can read.

>>> SAFE AND EFFECTIVE >>> >>> Segura y efectiva >>> >>> SAFE AND EFFECTIVE >>>
>>> SAFE AND EFFECTIVE >>> >>> सुरक्षित और प्रभावी >>> >>> SAFE AND EFFECTIVE >>> >>> 安全有效 >>> >>> SAFE AND EFFECTIVE


I love commuting by train -- so much nicer than dealing with driving and parking. My problem is that my commute is irregular and I often have to work outside of "normal" commute hours. This is a real pain. It wasn't so bad when trains would run every half hour during the day, but when they run only every hour? If I miss my train, it's a complete hassle to wait another hour and not always possible with work. For an urban corridor like this, trains should be running every 15-20 minutes. Our 2-car family would ditch one of our cars in a heartbeat if the trains would run every 15-20 minutes. I think a lot of people would. I would use it regularly for shopping and visiting and heading for recreational activities and not just commuting to and from work if the trains ran more frequently like a subway/metro.

Christopher Cooke

When I worked downtown, I frequently commuted by Caltrain or BART. Caltrain is a much nicer experience in many ways.I could walk to Caltrain from my house instead of driving to Millbrae BART. The trains are cleaner usually than the BART trains, and the Caltrain stations are cleaner than most BART stations. But CalTrain is much less frequent and does not go to downtown SF, which requires the rider to transfer to Muni, the Jitney, or bring a bike to get to downtown, and to have a more predictable work schedule. BART has a much better schedule but you encounter more city problems, crime and dirty stations. Caltrain has a big problem also that itts schedule tends to get disrupted more than BART, e.g. train delays because of cars and people getting hit. I think we should have one agency managing both systems. This would make the most sense financially and from a commuter rider perspective but it will never happen due to agency rivalry etc.. I do think many revenue problems are likely short term, and not a long term threat to Caltrain, because I think more people will return to working in downtown SF as the pandemic turns into an endemic., and the big employers mandate working in the office 3 or 4 days a week.


While it might seem we should have one bigger agency running both BART and Caltrain to save administrative costs and get better coordination, bigger agencies are always worse. I really doubt that a bigger government agency would have overall less employees and make better decisions. It is ALWAYS the opposite. And if we combine Caltrain and BART, then logically the next step would be to combine the other transportation agencies and modes in the bay area, and then California, and then let’s combine all the transportation in the country. And then it all fits into one big world strategy of control. Kind of like a new worldish orderish sort of thing. -- Don’t like it. Don’t want it.

And another thing. I don't expect to go back to normal for long. 1) midterms are coming up and 2) a lot of energy has gone toward creating vex passes and digital passports. I don’t think those guys working on it have been laid off.

Christopher Cooke

there was an article in SF Chronicle yesterday about all of the big companies downtown ordering their employees back to the office for work. MBGA, I think if agencies were consolidated we would or should have better coordinated schedules serving the riders. Right now you can take a BART train to Millbrae but have to wait almost an hour because a southbound Caltrain left a few minutes earlier. Also , as you note, there could be operational efficiencies from a consolidated management. At least that is how things should be done


I’ll proudly admit that I have never worked for the government, but I don’t see why it takes combining two agencies to get coordination of schedules. It just requires one intelligent and knowledgable hands-on type of person from each agency talking to each other a bit. Not a large group of affirmitive action managers meeting for months and years.

I know the problem of getting off BART in Milbrae and having to wait in the cold for 59.5 minutes for the next Caltrain to arrive in the evening. But that is an issue of the amount of trains that Caltrain can afford to run; it’s not that the schedules aren’t perfectly coordinated. Too much of the time there is no practicle way to perfectly coordinate them.

My experience in better times was that Caltrain for its part was almost always on time, except for the rare Darwinian event. But in contrast BART was often delayed with mechanical problems or criminal activity. So even if a bigger agency could set up a coordinated schedule, the bigger agency would inevitably lead to even more personel costs that would impact the maintenance budget and then with even less maintenance you’d have even more delays on BART, and then eventually have Caltrain cars breaking down too.

I have my fingers crossed that we’ll see full trains going up and down the peninsula again, but it wouldn’t take much for another virus to get unleashed and scare half the population back into their masked world. There’s always something lurking out there and I think we’ve proved that we are willing to critically disrupt everything to fight a virus that for >99% of the population is survivable.


9:52 am: All of the railroad crossing arms within the city of Burlingame are malfunctioning and stuck in a down position. Caltrains maintainers have been advised and will be making repairs as soon as possible. There is no estimated time for the completion of these repairs. We ask that alternate routes are used when driving through Burlingame, even diverting to other cities to cross the tracks safely. Please plan accordingly for the additional drive time.

11:54 am: All of the railroad crossing arms within the city of Burlingame are now functioning. Traffic can proceed normally through these intersections. Thank you for your patience while this issue was resolved.


Frustrating. I hope Caltrain and the City can convene a lessons learned moment or too to find out what happened, and take action so it never happens again. People walking we’re going under the arms just to walk across Broadway and at Oak Grove. That’s a lot of gas, idling, pollution and time wasted with nary a fauxpology.


The Merc got some internal planning documents from the MTC using a FOIA request. Here's the almost-worst-case scenario"

In an apocalyptic vision of Bay Area public transit, BART cancels its weekend service and shutters nine stations just to keep the lights on elsewhere. Trains run once an hour, instead of every 15 minutes. San Francisco’s Muni buses crawl around on life-support, and the East Bay’s AC Transit eliminates “numerous local lines.” Ferry service across the bay is halved.

This is not a doomsday fantasy, conjured up on a paper napkin. These are real scenarios drafted by the region’s transit agencies in a series of federally mandated planning documents obtained through a public records request by the Bay Area News Group. The grim projections come as the region’s commuter trains, buses and boats struggle to recover from massive ridership declines during the COVID pandemic and burn through the remaining federal relief funds that have helped keep them operating.

BART: Terminating two of five train lines – Red and Green – meaning no more direct trains from Richmond and Berryessa to San Francisco.

Caltrain: Slashing service amid a $50 million deficit, even as its $2.4 billion electrified trains hit the rails.

AC Transit: “Numerous local lines” reduced or fully discontinued.

Ferries: Majorr midday and weekend services slashed across the bay. Service expansions to Berkeley, Redwood City and Mission Bay halted.

Muni: Entire network returns to pandemic-era levels with frequency reductions starting on bus lines 2, 6 and 21

At the heart of these transit planning scenarios is a clarion call from the region’s transportation planners: They need more money – a lot of it – not to build shiny new stations, or fashion a second tunnel under the bay, but just to keep their systems running. In the coming five years, the Bay Area’s seven largest operators face a cumulative $2 billion operating deficit, according to the MTC, which oversees regional transit financing.


The answer is as plain as day-- kill high-speed fail so people think you are a sentient being and perhaps then they will agree to be taxed even more for a system hardly anyone will use. Oh, and hire more BART cops.


Neither the rock nor the hard place have moved much:

Caltrain’s operating and capital budgets remain balanced for the next two fiscal years, although subsequent future years remain financially uncertain, the transit agency’s staff announced at a June 1 meeting.

Much of the difficulty is due to the dip in financial and ridership numbers Caltrain faces following the pandemic, as many riders have yet to return to the level and frequency seen before 2020. To deal with the loss of revenue, Caltrain is using its Measure RR sales tax funds on operating expenses, which means less money for future capital projects related to rider experience, according to staff. Measure RR is a 2020 voter-passed sales tax that gives Caltrain a dedicated funding source for expenses beyond farebox revenue. Caltrain is delaying needed capital projects to ensure its budget is balanced in 2025, with around $48 million in deferred project costs in 2025, staff said at the meeting.



More subsidizing of mass transit at the expense of drivers--like we don't already fork over enough. When was the last time you saw one of the big double SamTrans busses on ECR with more that 5 people on it?

Bay Area drivers could soon be on the hook to help bail out BART and other transit agencies struggling to recover from the pandemic under a new plan that would hike bridge tolls $1.50, lawmakers plan to announce at a news conference this morning.

The proposal comes amid optimism that Gov. Gavin Newsom will accept basic terms of a short-term transit bailout in the upcoming budget expected to be finalized this week.

The toll hike legislation by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, calls for a $1.50 toll increase for crossing state-owned bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area through 2028 and to allocate proceeds to Bay Area transit operators that have seen revenues plummet since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

Paloma Ave

Like I have said before and will continue to remind people, "A democrat has never met a tax or fee increase that they didn't like."

And yet, they keep getting elected?


Employees/mgmt take pay cut.
All work harder on cleanliness and safety.
Lower fares until ridership goes up.
Ridership up? Increase staff/mgmt pay.

I thought BART was supposed to get people out of their cars?
Why make BART more annoying than it is already?


Here's an editorial from the Merc trying to bring some accountability.......from a BART DIRECTOR no less....

Opinion: A BART bailout should come with state oversight and other conditions
Board member says her colleagues ‘have completely breached their fiduciary obligations over the last three years’

The words “reform” and “accountability” are rarely spoken when addressing transit agency operating deficits, especially from BART, which currently is running deficits of over $300 million a year.

BART managers continue to place all the blame for its fiscal problems squarely on the disruption of ridership caused by COVID-19, forgetting that the agency was projecting annual deficits before the pandemic struck. COVID simply accelerated the process.

“Fiscal cliff,” “death spiral,” “doom loop” and other cute PR spin words are being tossed around in almost daily press conferences and news stories to convince the public that more taxpayer funding is the only solution. Yet in a recent board meeting, my proposal to direct staff to come up with ways to cut only 10% from the proposed budget was met with a flat no by six of nine board directors.

It was to be expected, given that my colleagues on the BART board have completely breached their fiduciary obligations over the last three years. My efforts to convince them to hold the line on spending were routinely met with name calling and bullying.



I took Caltrain yesterday for the first time since the pandemic hit. If your destination is Oracle Park, it's sort of a no-brainer. But one has to wonder if they are really working on operational efficiency to help dig out of the financial hole.

The ticket machine at the B'game station (southbound side) was out-of-order. The guy in front of me gave up on both credit card and cash payment. I gave it a try as well and got all the way to "Card is tapped" before the transaction died. I was going north so I used the northbound machine that I never knew was there before.

You have to wonder--do they not monitor the machines? If a machine has not completed a transaction in an hour or two hours, an alarm should go off somewhere to dispatch someone. If the machine is down for a day or two that is a lot of Clipper-less people thinking "I'll just roll the dice that they never ask for a ticket".

Headed home, I was surprised to be able to board the 10:36 pm train at......11:20 pm. In some ways that was a pleasantly surprising delay since as the Dead & Co concert lets out the last train was going to be packed. You just have to wonder, if one train is down, why not fire up one of the others that is nearby? With 40,000 people leaving all at once you would also think about a "special" or two, but no notice of that either.

It's harder to consider forking over more taxpayer money when the basics of how to run a railroad seem elusive.

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