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Offering more frequent midday Caltrain service

written by andy on

Caltrain ridership has reached an all time high and trains are more crowded than ever. With economic recovery ongoing, 101 continues to get congested beyond the traditional peak hours. On Caltrain, not only the peak hour trains are crowded, the ridership is also growing on the shoulder peak trains.

One of the things that irks some Caltrain riders is the fact that Caltrain runs hourly midday service. It wasn’t used to be that way. In year 2000, Caltrain first added hourly service to the midday schedule. It was reverted to hourly service in 2009 in response to the agency’s budget crisis.

1999 Schedule2000 Schedule2005 Schedule2009 Schedule

I do think that it is an appropriate time to restore more service during the midday hours. However, Caltrain is currently rebuilding rail bridges in San Mateo and requires single tracking through the area during the midday hours. This construction is supposed to last until next year.

Below is a schedule I proposed that would do a few things: provide 2 trains per hour midday, allow single tracking through San Mateo, provide faster service to most stops.

Northbound Southbound
Tamien 10:55 AM   —
San Jose 11:02 AM 11:25 AM
College Park   —   —
Santa Clara 11:07 AM   —
Lawrence 11:12 AM   —
Sunnyvale 11:16 AM 11:36 AM
Mountain View 11:21 AM 11:41 AM
San Antonio 11:25 AM   —
California Ave 11:29 AM   —
Palo Alto 11:33 AM 11:49 AM
Menlo Park 11:36 AM   —
Redwood City 11:41 AM 11:57 AM
San Carlos 11:45 AM   —
Belmont 11:48 AM   —
Hillsdale 11:51 AM 12:03 PM
Hayward Park 11:54 AM   —
San Mateo 11:57 AM   —
Burlingame 12:02 PM   —
Millbrae 12:07 PM 12:12 PM
San Bruno   — 12:16 PM
So. San Francisco   — 12:20 PM
Bayshore   — 12:26 PM
22nd Street   — 12:31 PM
San Francisco 12:24 PM 12:40 PM
San Francisco 10:51 AM 11:04 AM
22nd Street 10:56 AM   —
Bayshore 11:01 AM   —
So. San Francisco 11:07 AM   —
San Bruno 11:11 AM   —
Millbrae 11:15 AM 11:20 AM
Burlingame   — 11:24 AM
San Mateo   — 11:29 AM
Hayward Park   — 11:32 AM
Hillsdale   — 11:35 AM
Belmont   — 11:38 AM
San Carlos   — 11:41 AM
Redwood City 11:30 AM 11:46 AM
Menlo Park 11:35 AM 11:51 AM
Palo Alto 11:38 AM 11:54 AM
California Ave   — 11:58 AM
San Antonio   — 12:02 PM
Mountain View 11:46 AM 12:06 PM
Sunnyvale   — 12:11 PM
Lawrence   — 12:15 PM
Santa Clara 11:56 AM 12:20 PM
College Park   —   —
San Jose 12:05 PM 12:29 PM
Tamien   — 12:36 PM

This pattern follows a similar pattern being used in the peak hour train schedule, where there’s a train making local stops in the south half of the line (then express) and another running express then make local stops in the north half of the line. Timed transfer takes place in the middle of the line for riders needing local service. This pattern was instituted in 2005 in an effort to boost throughput and improve train loading since most riders prefer express trains.

Rather than having timed transfer in Redwood City, this schedule proposes the timed transfer to take place in Millbrae. Given that Millbrae is located just north of the single track area. This pattern allows two trains moving south through the single track and then two trains moving north. While it is possible to have each train in each direction taking turns separately, it requires precision to avoid delays. This pattern doesn’t require as much precision.

Under this schedule, a majority of the riders will get faster service. The SF to SJ travel time will be around 1 hour and 22 minutes and 1 hour and 15 minutes. South of Millbrae, one train will basically provide Bullet like service and another provides local service. Given the difference in speed, this schedule provides a relatively balanced departure and arrival times in the south end of the line.

When Caltrain becomes electrified, a new schedule can basically implemented to add stops and maintain travel time.