Caltrain Bicycle Service August Update - August 1, 2009

Dear Caltrain Customers,  

It has been a few weeks since our last communication to you, largely because our staff has been busy installing more bike racks and we wanted to wait until there was another significant development to report.

Instead of a singular moment that jumped out as a milestone, however, the progress has been steady and consistent.

Here is what has been happening:

We have completed the expansion on all 27 gallery cab cars scheduled for additional capacity. As of July 22, we had completed the conversion of the first four Bombardier cars. As of that date, 31 cab cars were equipped with an additional 248 bike slots.

We have three more Bombardier cars to be equipped with expanded bike capacity, as per the original commitment made by our Board a few months ago.

Then, we will convert three additional Bombardier cars to bike cars with the expanded level of capacity.

When all these changes are completed, and we expect them to be done sometime this fall, there will be 48 bike slots – two bike cars – on every Bombardier train set.

We are paying for these improvements to our bike capacity with stimulus funds we recently received from the federal government.

Some correspondents, when they read that Caltrain received the funds, immediately wrote to us with a plan for expanded capacity beyond what we are already doing. These were funds we already had budgeted, including the portion for the expanded bike capacity.

We are excited about the expansion of our capacity, but adding bicyclists does mean a change to the way our system operates. It will be important for us to complete this work and then measure its impact on our total system, including on-time performance, a standard of importance to every Caltrain customer.

BUMPING AND CONDUCTORS – Despite all these changes, there are still cycling passengers who cannot get on a train, although the numbers are dropping with the expanded capacity.

First, we are really sorry. We wish this wasn’t happening at all, we regret the significant inconvenience you are caused and we appreciate your patience and your continued patronage.

There are still times when a disruption in our service – a mechanical breakdown, for example – throws off the lineup of trains with which we start the day.

When that happens we have to piece together a train set as quickly as possible to minimize delays. That may mean a train scheduled to have two bike cars might have only one. Even with those problems, we promised that certain trains will have two bike cars, and we’re hitting that schedule more than 95 percent of the time.

Some of you want to know why conductors will refuse to let you on when it is evident there is a rack with enough space for more bikes.

We urge our conductors to manage the bike car as fairly and effectively as possible, but it’s also possible the conductor is moving bikes around and that he or she overloaded a rack for a short while with the thought of moving a couple of bikes when space opens up on another rack.

Certainly, how that job is done can vary from individual to individual, and even a usually cordial conductor can have a tough day.

As a matter of policy, our conductors are in charge of the train – as responsible for what happens as an airline attendant who is expected to enforce FAA regulations. We expect our conductors to exercise that responsibility with diligence, professionalism and courtesy, but we expect them to put the operation of the train and the safety of our passengers first.

BIKE TAGS ARE BACK – Many of you have once again begun sporting that snappy yellow tag used on our trains to label your destination. We discontinued them to save money, but we found a few extra dollars and were able to bring them back.

You should be able to find them on board and at our stations in San Francisco and San Jose.

Please use only what you need so that this supply lasts as long as possible.

A BREAK – I’m on vacation for the coming week, although I do hope to see some of you tomorrow (August 2) at the Tour de Peninsula, a family-friendly, fun bike ride that I began nearly 20 years ago with my friend Rick Sutton.

It begins and ends at Coyote Point County Park and you can register the day of the ride.

Meanwhile, stay in touch and thanks for riding Caltrain.

Warm regards,

Mark Simon
Executive Officer for Public Affairs
San Mateo County Transit District
San Mateo County Transportation Authority
Phone: (650) 508-6340
Fax: (650) 508-6281