Commentary, Issues

Caltrain Electrification

Commentary by Richard Silver, RailPAC Executive Director
April 15, 2007
RailPAC Alert:Letter: Caltrain electrification will allow more small-town stops!

The letter below by Menlo Park Resident Clem Miller is right on point. We, RailPAC, have tried to raise these points to the member of the Coalition to Expand Transit Service (Certs) but they refuse to listen. In fact, many, but not all of the Certs leaders, are opposed to electrification of Caltrain.

Let’s me make it clear, experts and those in the know i.e. people who actually work in the rail field know that electrification is the next logical step in the expansion and improvement of Caltrain. It will lower cost (electricity is cheaper that Diesel) reduce pollution (again electricity over diesel) allow trains to run fast, stop faster and startup faster, cheaper to maintain (fewer moving parts) and would reduce noise pollution.

The fact is CERTS doesn’t really care about any of the issues they claim to support. By and large the driving force behind CERTS is a group of disgruntled city councilmembers form Burlingame and Atherton who are upset with the closing of their local Caltrain station.

While RailPAC was opposed to the closing of the Atherton station, it was hard to disagree with Caltrain that it made sense to close it because Atherton orginally refused to allow for outside boarding and allowing non-atherton residents from using the station parking lot. Besides restriction ridership Atherton prevented Caltrain from making the station safer and allowing trains to pass through the station.

In the case of the Broadway station, its ridership was never high, This was because along the entire line, the distance between the Millbrae – Broadway – Burlingame stations are so closely grouped together, there just wasn’t enough area or population for ridership to grow. Even now the distance between Millbrae and Burlingame stations is shorter that the average throughout the system.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, many of the users of the Broadway station had already move to the Millbrae station due the opening of the BART service.

As it turned out once the station did close many people who had used the Broadway station and lived between Boardway and the main Burlingame station started using the main Burlingame station thereby increasing ridership to/from that station and so that it became a baby bullet stop when additional trains were added.

On point that you might want to add to Mr Tillers letter, the new Caltrain Timetable has seen an increase in ridersip of almost 40% while the operating loss has been reduced by almost 2/3. ALL WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT AND ONLY A SMALL INCREASE IN STAFFING.

Please send us your comments or suggestions on this issue.

Richard Silver, Executive Director
Rail Passenger Association of California (RailPAC)

Letter: Caltrain electrification will allow more small-town stops
Sat Apr 14, 2007 11:03 pm (PST)
Published Friday, April 13, 2007, by the Palo Alto Daily News

Letters to the Editor

Electrify Caltrain

The Coalition to Expand Transit Service has the wrong idea on how
to get Caltrain to make more stops at small stations. Caltrain as
it exists today is hobbled by a trade-off between service speed
and frequency because its lumbering diesel trains add a whopping
2-1/2 minutes to the schedule every time they make a station stop.

Modern electric trains provide swift acceleration and braking along
with quicker boarding, and would no longer require the sacrifice of
so many stops at smaller stations in order to provide speedy service.
To secure more stops, the Coalition would do better in joining with
Caltrain to hasten the electrification of the trains.

Clem Tillier,
Menlo Park

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