When Thursday's train halted in a San Francisco tunnel, two conductors hurriedly moved the obstruction out of the way. Though a 55-gallon garbage can won't derail a train, impact can throw off dangerous metal shards.
The same can probably be said of Atherton's threatened lawsuit.
The town would like overhead electrification lines supported by poles between the tracks, not on either side. Atherton also wants the return of weekday service.
Atherton, population 7100, seems to have remarkable expertise in rail electrification. As for weekday service, Caltrain ceased stopping in Atherton because daily boardings had dropped to 120. By contrast, thousands of daily commuters clamber aboard at Menlo Park, Redwood City and Palo Alto.
Hard to say if Atherton's redesigned electrification is feasible. What's certainly worth trying, is a civic push to boost ridership. The town can sue all it wants, but rush-hour commuters will protest if packed trains keep stopping at Atherton's empty station. These days many Caltrain's expresses run at 120% of capacity. They are often standing-room-only.
As for the garbage can on the tracks, one conductor speculated about the underlying roots. He had lots of time to speculate, waiting to lower me in a wheelchair lift as hundreds of commuters slowly made their way up the rush-hour platform. In the UK, I suggested, railway walls are topped with glass fragments, fences with rolls of barbed wire.
Yes, he shrugged, and they've got 1.2 billion riders a year. Every Briton knows trains are dangerous -- and vital to the economy.
Actually, there are people in Atherton who know the same thing about Silicon Valley. Burgeoning companies need to get people to work. And long-term, they are not in the bus business.
Silicon Valley is all about growth. And unless Caltrain grows, the region's companies can't.