As Caltrain prepares to electrify and modernize its system, the transit agency is hoping to hear from the traveling public about the preferred design of the cars that will run on the tracks.
At the first of a series of preliminary meetings on future Caltrain cars in San Carlos Monday, the public was invited to meet with SamTrans representatives to provide feedback specifically on the interior of the new cars that will be part of the electrification and modernization of Caltrain. Community members are encouraged to weigh in on various features such as the number of seats per car versus the number of bathrooms, as well as luggage racks and bike racks, said Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn.
“One of the things going on right now is that many of our trains are very crowded,” Dunn said. “And people are having to stand during the peak commutes. So what we're asking people right now is, 'What is your preference?' 'Is it more important to you to have a bathroom than a seat? You don't mind standing, but you'd like luggage racks?'”
Though not an issue directly addressed as part of the system modernization, “level boarding” of trains was a key topic discussed by audience members at the two public meetings at SamTrans headquarters on Monday, Dunn noted.
Some stations require passengers to board a short flight of stairs to embark the train cars, which can extend boarding times and be difficult for passengers in wheelchairs. While some have suggested correcting the issue, Dunn said such a change is not considered feasible because it would require modifications to the stations themselves, not to the cars.
“We have 27 stations, and all of the stations are unique and different. Some of them are historic, and right at this time, we don't have the funds to change all of the stations to be able to accommodate level boarding,” she said.
The electrification and modernization process has yet to begin in earnest, as the environmental impact report for the project has not been fully completed. The electrification of Caltrain will improve trains' performance, reduce pollution and allow for a projected increase in ridership in future years, according to the environmental impact report.
The manufacturing of the cars, which is not expected to begin until next year, will take approximately three years to complete, said Dunn, adding that the public outreach efforts are in the preliminary stages.
Monday's meetings were only the first in a long series of meetings SamTrans has in the works. Besides getting together with members of various committees including the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Accessibility Committee and others, representatives will also be conducting on-site surveys during peak ridership hours at 10 different Caltrain stations, Dunn said.
SamTrans is also seeking the public's feedback through an online survey at surveymonkey.com/s/EMUPhase1.
“We are deliberately doing this outreach now because we wanted to hear back from our riders what we're looking at right now,” Dunn said.
The modernization of Caltrain is slated to be completed by 2019.