At long last the Valley Transportation Agency has negotiated
increased right-of-way on Union Pacific’s South County lines. This
has been a long, frustrating negotiation for the transit agency and
for Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Santa Clara County officials.
At long last the Valley Transportation Agency has negotiated increased right-of-way on Union Pacific’s South County lines. This has been a long, frustrating negotiation for the transit agency and for Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Santa Clara County officials.
But Supervisor Don Gage, who spearheaded the negotiations as chairman of the VTA, acknowledges that due to declining ridership, no new trains are in South County’s foreseeable future. Yet, Caltrain is a rare public transit success story. The service is embraced throughout the South Bay, and we think that the reason it’s been less than a spectacular success in South County is the extremely limited service.
We understand the difficult proposition faced by VTA officials – it’s hard to justify increasing service when
the trains to South County aren’t full now. But if the
reason the trains are less than full is that the times
they’re offered doesn’t meet the needs of riders because there’s so little flexibility in the option, then let’s fix that.
We suggest a pilot program that adds a train or two at later times in the morning and evening that will attract riders who want to leave their South County homes at an hour that doesn’t come before first light.
However, there is a caution: This pilot program should not be handled in the shabby, half-hearted manner the ill-fated South County weekend Caltrain service pilot program of a few years ago. In that case, a short program at the worst time of year – February – was aborted earlier than planned due to low ridership. This pilot should last a year – it takes people time to discover a new service and to change ingrained habits – and should be tweaked, not killed, if it does not meet expectations. If a 7:30am train has low numbers, don’t end it, change it to 8am.
A properly managed, well-advertised, fully supported pilot program could provide valuable data to VTA officials on the untapped demand for new trains in
South County. And it sure beats throwing more money into the black hole that is BART-to-San Jose.