Personal tools

Views 10th anniversary

written by andy on

About 10 years ago, Transit Unlimited Wiki was born.

In 2008:

While the Bay Area has many transportation alternatives, it is often hard to figure out what options there are and how to use them. It can be especially confusing for new and infrequent riders and visitors on vacation or business. The goal of this project is to fill in the gaps left by the official transit web sites and online transit trip planners with the information and knowledge experienced riders have picked up along the way.

After 10 years, things have changed quite a bit.

  1. Trip planning and mapping technologies have advanced. Transit schedules now have a industry standard format.
  2. More transit agencies offer real time information. We support real time departure information on the wiki for agencies that offer open API access.
  3. We expanded beyond the Bay Area. In 2009 we expand coverage in Sacramento and Southern California. We are covering all the way to Chicago.
  4. Mobile devices are common today. We have a mobile version of the wiki.
  5. Transit agencies are using social media for service alerts and announcements. We integrate and embed these information whenever available to provide a one-stop shop.
  6. Complementary services like bike sharing is available in more locations.
  7. Agencies and cities are testing app-enabled ride services.
  8. Cities are building rail-like bus rapid transit lines with dedicated facilities.
  9. Saw significant reduction on transit due to the Great Recession, and seeing recovery in service as the economy improves.

We still have a lot more work to do. Eventually I want to see the wiki to cover coast to coast, from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. Besides the major cities, there’s transit in the rural areas (intercity and dial-a-ride) throughout the country.

I believe that this is the only wiki dedicated to transit service information available today. There were attempts for wikis to provide transit information. There are also wikis today that cover transit agencies in different aspects (professional planners, fleet details). I think part of this wiki’s success is the use of the Semantic MediaWiki extension, which allows the information to be entered once on a page and then queried many times in other pages. That’s how we could provide the same level of detail for transit service on some strip mall in a city, and provide interactive maps for a bus route, a region, a city, or a county. Our strength is still our agency-independence format and coverage, as well as a human touch beyond machine readable information formats like GTFS.

One of the most popular wikis for transit information is Wikipedia. The help of enthusiastic editors can allow transit information to be available in high details. However because of Wikipedia’s broad and general mission, as well as standard for notability and 3rd party reference, such information and level of detail may not always be appreciated. I believe that and Wikipedia have separate roles even covering the same transit agency, route, or infrastructure. focuses on being a user guide and directory, and Wikipedia focuses on background, history, and controversies.

  • Article
  • Uncategorized
  • Comments Off on Reversing the dangerous trend of train-auto collisions on Caltrain

Reversing the dangerous trend of train-auto collisions on Caltrain

written by andy on

Recently there’s a dangerous trend where car drivers intrude onto the rail right of way. In many cases, the car simply got stuck on the track and trains were held while waiting for the tow truck to remove the vehicle. In other cases, the train hit the unoccupied vehicle. Either way, trains were delayed and rides got frustrated.

(Photo by Manborag via KRON4)

Below are the known incidents that involved vehicles entering the rail right of way in the past 8 years. This is a partial list since there are other non-collision intrusion events that are not reported in the news or through Twitter.

Certain patterns have emerged with these incidents:

  • Most of them do not result in injuries or deaths because the vehicle occupants were able to escape before the collision.
  • Most of them occurred during night or early morning hours when visibility is limited, which is especially problematic during winter months as daylights are much shorter than during summer months.
  • They occur at crossings immediately adjacent to street intersections, where distance is at most a few cars’ length.
  • Many of them turned right and entered the right of way when they tried to follow the GPS direction (that they should turn right after crossing the tracks) and were otherwise not familiar with the area (being from out of town).
  • Most frequently occurred at Broadway in Burlingame, and at Meadow and Charleston in south Palo Alto.

It is imperative for Caltrain to cut down the number of these collisions, as they are all preventable. These events not only cause serious service disruptions to train riders and others on the roads, they may result in fire (which occurred in the two February 2018 incidents).

Read the rest of this page »

East Bay Coast Line Passenger Rail?

written by andy on

For almost 20 years, I have been looking at the issues with passenger rail between the East Bay, San Jose, and on the Peninsula. In the late 90s, before the focus towards extending BART south of Fremont, there were various ideas of building a rail connection via commuter trains.

There were 3 existing rail corridors available at that time. All of the plans include a connection with BART in the Union City area and take one of the 3 alignments to San Jose.

Despite the fact that the BART extension got approved, there’s still a proposal to connect the Capitol Corridor and Dumbarton trains at Union City. In order to do so, Capitol Corridor trains would have to reroute to a track next to BART and build a tunnel under the BART track at the south end. However it would not facilitate a direction between ACE and BART in the area. There’s an idea to build a BART station at the location where the tracks cross but it is neither supported by BART and the City of Fremont.

Considering the fact that it is no longer necessary for commuter rail to fill the rail gap between Fremont and San Jose (since BART will be extended), we should review plans of how to increase Capitol Corridor service and operate Dumbarton Rail in the East Bay.

A few facts:

Fremont continues to be unsupportive towards commuter rail. Back in late 90s, they were against commuter rail because it was presented as an alternative to extending BART, which was their top priority. Now they’ve an issue of the city acting as a pass through for long distance commuters and being a bedroom community for Peninsula/South Bay workers.

Capitol Corridor proposes a realignment of its trains to the Coast Line north of Newark to decrease travel time. Such realignment and speed improvement would require a dedicated corridor.

State Rail Plan calls for improvement for rail between Oakland and San Jose.

ACE drops plan to rail capacity expansions in the Niles Canyon area due to opposition from Fremont and others fearing additional freight trains. ACE needed additional capacity to divert freight trains to make room for more passenger trains.

A proposal below is to run the Dumbarton trains, rather than to Union City BART station as in nearly all the proposals studied, to Oakland Coliseum via the Coast Line. The Coast Line would have additional local stops. Capitol Corridor can provide express service on the Coast Line.

  • This plan avoids having commuter trains run through the core of Fremont.
  • It would have stops in Newark and Union City, which are more supportive of commuter rail.
  • It would provide rail service west of I-880. The current BART route is along the hills east of I-880.
  • Having Dumbarton rail connecting with BART in Union City requires riders further north to take BART and perhaps park at BART stations. While BART trains have room, the parking is not. If Dumbarton Rail runs on the Coast Line riders along that segment would have direct access and be able to park without competing space with BART riders heading to SF.
  • SF commuters living west of I-880 in Hayward and San Lorenzo can take Dumbarton Rail from stops along the Coast Line to Coliseum and transfer to BART, instead of driving or taking a bus to BART.
  • If for capacity reason that Dumbarton trains cannot share tracks with Caltrain on the Peninsula, running along the Coast Line would avoid a possible triple transfer.
  • Passenger rail on the Coast Line is compatible with a 2nd Transbay Tube.
  • It would leverage whatever improvements that are needed for a better Capitol Corridor service, especially if it is something on the scale of public ownership of the route. This is consistent with the vision laid out in the State’s Rail Plan.
  • A transfer station would be built at Newark Junction to allow transfers between ACE and Dumbarton Rail. Unless the tracks in Niles Canyon are improved (or a new corridor through tunneling), ACE service is restricted to 4 round trips a day. So the idea of direct service from the Tri-Valley and the Central Valley is not feasible without support from the Alameda County, particularly Fremont. Under this scenario, selected transbay trains would stop there with timed connection, which occurs about hourly. More frequent service would operate across the Bay and up to Oakland via the Coast Line.

Introducing transit service change repository

written by andy on or has been up for almost 10 years highlighting transit routes and locations served by transit. Originally the wiki covered the San Francisco Bay Area agencies but it has been expanded to cover the entire western US. My hope is that it would cover the entire US someday.

One of the challenges with expansion is the need to keep to date with transit information as service changes over time. I try very hard to keep information current for major transit agencies, but there needs to be better tools to keep up.

Many transit agencies perform service changes at regular intervals up to 3 or 4 times a year. Due to federal laws and labor agreements, planners propose changes a few months ahead, conduct public hearings, perform federally mandated analyses, seek board approvals, and implement these changes at regularly scheduled driver sign-ups.

It is a lot of work, but the agencies do not present service change information the same way. Some of them put the information on a blog style web site and keep it permanently. Many put them on a single service change page where the information will be replaced for the next change. Some of them put in PDFs as part of a news release. Often times the information is hard to find once the change is implemented. You have to go to the Internet Archive to look for it.

We have good repositories for schedule and route info in GTFS format, with such sites as You can not only find the current info but past data from years past.

While you can check and see the changes by comparing information between versions, it is not as easy as to check the service change materials. Also the service change materials often present why they are changing routes and schedules.

The wiki has expanded to become a repository for the changes. Pages can be added to the wiki to include the source material from the agency about the service changes. Once it is saved, it stays.

There’s also a calendar that highlights the past and upcoming service changes among all the agencies.

This help keeps me informed with changes that may need updates on the wiki, such as route changes, new routes, and route discontinuations.

For you, this information can provide insights of why things changed, may that be due to ridership or changes in funding.


VTA tells stadiums: pay up or else

written by andy on

This is what VTA telling Sharks fan this season:

VTA will no longer offer direct service to or from Santa Teresa light rail station to San Fernando and Diridon Station for special events and games at SAP. In June the VTA Board of Directors adopted a Special Events Policy for event venues to reimburse VTA for services requested beyond its regular service. SAP has chosen not to request the additional service for Sharks games. There is still direct service to and from Winchester, although no extra trains post event.

This is part of an ongoing pattern for the last 17 years: Want more taxes but don’t want to spend the money on services.

Read the rest of this page »