By Sue Dremann
Caltrain's Baby Bullet trains, which have been credited with boosting Caltrain's ridership since 2005, would be eliminated in the latest budget proposal, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn confirmed Wednesday (April 6).
Caltrain's Peninsula Joint Powers Board is looking for ways to eliminate a projected $30 million deficit for fiscal year 2012. The board was considering drastic cuts that would have cut all service except for peak-commute times and could have closed up to seven stations and ended train access to cities south of San Jose.
But an 11th-hour proposal hammered together Monday by Caltrain's partner agencies -- San Mateo County's SamTrans, Santa Clara County's VTA and San Francisco's MTA and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission -- would preserve much of the service.
Commuters and board members have attributed much of the system's ridership to the speedy Baby Bullet service, which is seen as a stepping stone to the kind of modernization that proponents say is necessary for the long-term viability of Caltrain. Electrification is another goal Caltrain officials argued would be necessary to upgrade the rail system. Caltrain added Baby Bullet service on weekends on Jan. 1.
Former Palo Alto mayor Yoriko Kishimoto, who spearheads the grassroots group Friends of Caltrain, said Wednesday morning that fastest train service would be eliminated under the new proposal.
"It's still faster than non-express trains, but it's a significant trade-off. The Baby Bullet is the reason Caltrain saw a skyrocketing of ridership. The savings in time is needed to make the train competitive with driving," she said.
Dunn said, however, that on the proposed 76-train schedule, all trains during the peak commute will be express trains, although not Baby Bullets.
"This will give more riders more choices and may even reduce travel times for some people who are not able to take advantage of the current Baby Bullet service," she said.
A comparison of the current travel times compared to the proposed times for local stations can be found here.
A complete proposed schedule is available here.