More trains in 2008 meant to ease Caltrain commute

Caltrain on Thursday added two more trains to next year’s evening commute in a move that will make weeknight stops more frequent and scheduling easier to remember.

One extra train in each direction will start running at 7:30 p.m. each weeknight beginning March 3. That new schedule adds one more nightly pickup time for most stations between San Jose Diridon and San Francisco and shortens time between pickups.

For instance, northbound weekday trips feature stops at the Redwood City station at 7:29 p.m., 8:49 p.m., 9:49 p.m. and 11:09 p.m. Under the new schedule, those pickups will be made at 7:29 p.m., 8:09 p.m., 9:09 p.m., 10:09 p.m. and 11:09 p.m.

Caltrain has used a 96-train schedule since August 2005. Since then, ridership has grown 21 percent. The new 98-train schedule should reduce gaps in evening service, said Michelle Bouchard, deputy director of transportation.

The extra trains will not require any additional staff or equipment, so gas will be the only related increased expense, officials said. The agency expects to save money because it will no longer have to run a special AT&T Park train during Giants game nights next season.

It is unlikely the agency will add more trains to other times of the week, spokesman Jonah Weinberg said.

“There is no room in the schedule to operate more trains during the morning commute and there isn’t enough demand in the midday or weekend to make it financially possible,” Weinberg said.

Menlo Park Councilmember Kelly Fergusson, a member of the county’s Coalition to Expand Transit Services, said the key as Caltrain moves forward will be to add more stops rather than more trains.

“It’s nice that they’ve added two more trains in the evening, but what we really need is restoration of service in the places where we’ve lost it,” Atherton Vice Mayor Jim Janz said. He noted lack of weekday service at the Broadway station in Burlingame and the Atherton station.

The complete new schedule is available at caltrain.com/timetable.

Rail fences to discourage shortcuts

Caltrain approved $2.76 million worth of right-of-way fencing from San Francisco to San Jose on Thursday to increase safety by removing the temptation for trespassers to take shortcuts across tracks.

The purpose of the fencing is not specifically to prevent accidental deaths but to limit those who like to cut across the tracks to save time, spokesman Jonah Weinberg said.

Additionally, Caltrain is using extra heavy-duty mesh fencing because they have “had a constant battle with vandals who illegally cut through fences to maintain access to their accustomed shortcuts,” Weinberg said.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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