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June 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Caltrain rolls out Baby Bullets, weekend service this week Caltrain rolls out Baby Bullets, weekend service this week (June 02, 2004)

By Marion Softky
Almanac Staff Writer

This week Caltrain launches its new Baby Bullet express service with high hopes, celebrations, and a warning.

Starting Monday, June 7, a total of 10 new Baby Bullet express trains will zip between San Jose and San Francisco in 57 minutes each way -- rather than the present 96 minutes. The time between Palo Alto and San Francisco will drop from 62 to 37 minutes.

Weekend service will also resume on Saturday after a two-year hiatus while construction crews added passing tracks, upgraded stations, and installed a new signal system. Hourly trains on Saturdays and Sundays will make all the stops so families can take the train to games and events up and down the Peninsula.

The hope behind the $127 million express service is to help unclog highways by persuading more people to take the train. "We hope that people will realize that they can get places faster on the train than in their cars," said Caltrain Chief Operating Officer Chuck Harvey.

Safety warning

As express trains zoom along tracks and through stations at 79 miles per hour, people need to be extra-wary, say Caltrain officials.

At stations, stand back from the tracks -- way back behind the yellow line, warns train buff Art Lloyd of Portola Valley, a member of the Caltrain board. Keep away from the right-of-way. Cross only at identified crossings, and step over -- never step on -- the tracks, he says.

And be sure to look both ways; with the new switching, trains can come from either direction on each track, says Mr. Lloyd.

Most trains ever

With the 10 new daily Baby Bullets, Caltrain will operate 86 trains each weekday, the most trains ever operated on the Peninsula railroad since the first train puffed down the Peninsula on Jan. 16, 1864, Mr. Lloyd noted.

However the Baby Bullets are neither the first, nor the only express trains on the line, Mr. Lloyd said. From the 1890s to the 1950s, the Del Monte ran between San Francisco and San Jose, with one stop in Palo Alto, in 59 minutes. "Express trains are nothing new," he said.

The Baby Bullets will operate five trains in the morning and five in the evening. In the morning three go north from San Jose, and two south from San Francisco. In the evening, it's three south and two north.

The new service will have more off-peak hour trains than ever, Mr. Lloyd said. On week days, every other train will be a local, and stop at every station. Alternate trains will not stop at several low-ridership stations, including Atherton.

There also will be more weekend trains than ever, with hourly service both Saturdays and Sundays, Mr. Lloyd said. Weekend service will include 32 trains on Saturdays from 6 a.m. to midnight; and 30 trains on Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Celebrations launch Baby Bullets

Caltrain will celebrate its new service by giving free tickets for weekend train rides June 5 and 6, and June 12 and 13.

There will be a carnival, Saturday, June 5, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the San Francisco station at 4th and King streets, with dancing, animal balloons, a juggler, and a stiltwalker.

The Baby Bullet service will be officially launched Friday, June 4, at 2 p.m. at the San Francisco Caltrain station at 4th and King streets. The celebration will begin with music at 1:30 p.m., and include an address by state Sen. Jackie Speier, who spearheaded the service, and San Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin as master of ceremonies. The ceremony will be followed by a ride on a Baby Bullet to Millbrae and back, to show how it switches tracks and passes slower trains.

Caltrain board member Art Lloyd of Portola Valley suggests taking the 12:13 p.m. or 12:47 p.m. train from Menlo Park to get to the event in San Francisco. "You'll be home by 3:31," he said.

For schedules or more information, call 1-800-660-4287; or go to www.caltrain.com.


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