Thursday, June 5, 2008

Not that Simple

Update: You Can Listen to the Episode of Forum by clicking here.

I worry about analysis like these in the Tyee. While it's nice to think that if we didn't build that heavy rail line we could build x more miles of streetcar lines, it's really not that simple. Mostly because they serve two different purposes. You can't just say we can have 8 miles of streetcar for a mile of heavy rail, because what is happening is your trading short trips at a slower speed for longer trips at a faster speed. It's necessary to have both.

This morning I was listening to forum on KQED and one of the callers said it was absurd that he couldn't get from Sunnyvale to Berkeley in 2 hours. This is due to the lack of express trains between major destinations. In a better transit system, you would have Caltrain bullets stopping only at places like San Jose, Palo Alto, and San Francisco. Then it would go in it's own tube to Oakland and Berkeley. This is an expensive service due to the tube and electrification etc, and would likely generate calls to spend money more "cost effectively". They would say, why not build 400 buses or the next big trade off. The problem is you need both. In order to make transit useful, there need to be short trips and long trips made easy.

Now I know there is limited funding, but we need to start thinking like non-transit wonks think. And they think, why can't I get from a to b in under an hour if it takes that long in my car. Transit has to be competitive time wise, whether you're trying to hop a few blocks to get a bite to eat or going to a different city in the region.


arcady said...

Wait wait. So what you're saying is that transit should be planned so that people actually want to use it? What a novel concept. And by the way, Sunnyvale to Berkeley in 2 hours is doable in under 2 hours, during rush hour at least. Take the 8:13 Baby Bullet from Sunnyvale to Millbrae, change to the BART, and you'll be there at 9:42. Or, maybe, take some combination of bus and light rail to Great America and then Amtrak, which is more expensive but also fast, even off peak and on weekends. Really, it would be nice if there were more express Caltrain runs, especially on weekends, as that makes the service MUCH more useful for those of us who need to travel almost the whole length of the line.

arcady said...

Also, the ideal transit system would probably involve a Caltrain express running to the Transbay Terminal, and a revived Key System light rail from there directly to Berkeley.

295bus said...

You can get from Sunnyvale to Berkeley in under 2 hours pretty easily if you do part of it by bike.

(a) Bike to Great America, catch Amtrak.

(b) CalTrain Baby Bullet to SF, bike to BART (faster than either connecting at Millbrae, more reliable than connecting downtown via Muni).

But back to your point--we really need the downtown CalTrain extension. It'll be really expensive, but no "low cost alternative" is going to cut it.

On the other hand: I think there are a lot of cases where a combination of commuter rail (on existing ry's) for long distance travel + light rail/rapid streetcar for local is better and cheaper than brand new "rapid transit" (imho the "heavy rail" label is stupid).

San Jose, for example, could beef up Cap Corridor and ACE for a heckofa lot less $$ than building BART, and spend the difference on a lot of new light rail.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Haha yes what a novel concept. Well of course you all know how to do it in 2 hours, but what about the people who just want to take it once in a while? They aren't as in tune with how things work. I think the guy that did this took a two buses to BART in Freemont or something like that using a trip planner. But also remember that the bullets don't operate all the time. Just during rush hour.

Brian Goldner said...

does anyone think that the sunnyvale->berkeley trip would be faster if/when BART to SJ was built?

also, i found an express bus (VTA # 120) that leaves from the lockheed martin plant near sunnyvale and goes to the fremont bart station...should get u there in about 1:30

arcady's suggestion works too...cap corridor is much faster and they have monthly passes that can lower the cost

caltrain metro east, should it ever get built, would be one way to make this trip much faster

arcady said...

BART to San Jose won't make this trip very much faster: it's already 50 minutes from Fremont to Berkeley, plus add in at least another half an hour to get to San Jose, plus whatever time it takes from Sunnyvale to San Jose (at least 14 minutes by Caltrain). And that, by the way, is one of the big problems with the San Jose extension: it goes to San Jose, and does nothing to serve Sunnyvale and Mountain View and such. Anyway, I think another big problem with the whole situation is the lack of coordination of schedules, connections, and fares. The problem is made worse by the fact that two of the agencies that should be the backbone of the network (Caltrain and Capitol Corridor) are both relatively small and weak compared to even the local bus agencies.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, before the BART extension was finished, I commuted from Berkeley to Stanford and back in about 2 hours each way using BART to Union City and then the Dumbarton Express (and usually included the Stanford shuttle on one end and sometimes AC Transit on the other). Definitely not something I'd recommend as a regular commute. I'm surprised using the Millbrae extension isn't much faster, although the difference between Stanford and Millbrae might account for that.

arcady said...

The Millbrae extension was originally slow because of the detour to the airport, and because it goes around via Daly City and Colma, and there's some slow running around the Colma yard. Also, the connection was very bad on weekends: either wait 23 minutes, or trust the BART to not be more than 3 minutes late, which is not at all a safe bet on that line.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I found that out the hard way missing Caltrain to San Jose. Had to take a cab to the airport. Ouch!