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on Aug 4, 2008
How does this growth compare to population growth? Is it a much greater rate or parallel?
In the bay area, how do we know the demand is up due to gas prices or might it be due also to higher employment? What do the statistics show for the Menlo Park station over this same time period, and how does that compare to the highest periods of the past? When is electrification expected? What does this mean for Menlo Park?
Ah, yes. Lighter electric trains. But, only if the FRA gives them permission. It is a fundamental truth of biblical proportions that in the US, we don't mix heavy rail freight with lighter trains such as EMUs or DMUs on the same tracks. This would be a huge exception. Without it, Caltrain will be constrained to continue using its heavy rail equipment and replace the Diesel burners with electric locomotives that are almost as heavy. Therefore, the improvement is in operating cost reductions due to less Diesel fuel use. But the capital cost investments will be enormous.
But, there's another issue and please forgive my deep and abiding skepticism. Who is doing the passenger head-count? How do we know of the reliability of these numbers? Caltrain states, in it's work description, that getting ridership numbers is part of Amtrak's job. (Amtrak is a sole source contractor that operates Caltrain trains for the Joint Powers Board.) Is there an "Independent" count? Even as they state their ever increasing numbers, I hear many anecdotal reports of half empty cars and trains.
If there is record ridership and the trains are no longer, why should they need a fare hike for more expensive fuel?
I hear many anecdotal reports of jammed trains and frustrated bicyclists who aren't allowed to board because the capacity has been exceeded. I returned from San Jose at 5 PM on a Saturday evening a few weeks ago and the car was standing room only! I don't think they are making up these numbers, but I am not surprised that Martin is skeptical. Martin, when did you last ride Caltrain?
I caught the 5:57 pm train from Menlo Park to San Mateo yesterday, and by the time we hit San Carlos, all the seats in my car were full.
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