Caltrain Unveils Low Floor Rail Cars
stopping only at a few selected stations and
bypassing local trains.
The June 28 festivities began with a
rousing welcome at the South San Francisco
station by San Mateo County Supervisor
Mike Nevin, chair of the Caltrain board.
Representatives from Herzog Contracting
Corp. and Stacy and Witbeck Inc. showed
off specialized construction equipment for
the northern portion of the construction
project dubbed "North CTX." Two workers
in hard hats gave a smoky demonstration of
how to build continuously welded rail using
The new low-floor Caltrain cars soon
arrived at the station and carried state
Senator Jackie Speier, who sponsored the
2000 legislation to fund the Baby Bullet
program, members of the media, and other
participants to the ceremony at the 4th and
In San Francisco, Supervisor Nevin
skillfully opened the formal ceremonies with
a warm and congratulatory tone. The
ceremony included speeches by Governor
Davis, California Secretary of Business,
Transportation and Housing Maria
Contreras-Sweet, Senator Speier, and
Metropolitan Transportation Commission
(MTC) Commissioner Sue Lempert.
Senator Speier recalled back when
Matier and Ross of San Francisco Chronicle
reported her proposal to fund Caltrain two
years ago, the governor quickly contacted
her and adopted her plan into his
Transportation Congestion Relief Plan
(TCRP) funding package. The Caltrain Baby
Bullet is the only major rail program to be
fully funded using monies from the state
surplus in 2000. Governor Davis touted this
investment in Caltrain, as well as $20
million that he has appropriated for the
Caltrain extension to Salinas.
Many other dignitaries also attended,
including Jeff Morales, Director of Caltrans
(the state Department of Transportation), and
John McLemore, Caltrain board member and
MTC Commissioner from Santa Clara
County who is running for mayor of the city
of Santa Clara this November. After the
ceremony, Governor Davis rode the new train
to South San Francisco.
The low floor railcars, made by
Bombardier, are nearly identical to the cars
used by Altamont Commuter Express between
Stockton and San Jose, Metrolink in Los
Angeles, and Coaster in San Diego. Caltrain
purchased the railcars from Sound Transit of
the Seattle area. Sound Transit initially had
purchased and painted the cars but was
unable to use them due to lack of funding.
For many years, BayRail Alliance has
advocated the purchase of low floor railcars.
These cars provide greatly improved
accessibility and ride quality over the gallery
cars currently used by Caltrain.
While the low floor cars were
purchased for the "Baby Bullet" service, they
will be used on regular local service before
the super express service begins in late 2003.
The CTX project marks a major
milestone for Caltrain. Secretary Maria
Contreras-Sweet emphasized the advantages
of upgrading Caltrain in her speech at the
groundbreaking. She stated that the
Governor and other public officials, through
their decision to fund the largest capital
improvement project in Caltrain's history,
recognize the potential for significant
transportation improvements by upgrading
existing rail infrastructure.
Sen. Jackie Speier described the CTX
project as an important step toward the
creation of a statewide high-speed rail
system. With the outpouring of support for
Caltrain express service by public officials,
BayRail aims to further its advocacy efforts
to make electrification, the downtown San
Francisco extension, Dumbarton Rail, and
statewide high-speed rail a reality.
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A decline in sales taxes and fare
revenue during this economic recession is
resulting in service cuts for riders of Caltrain
and connecting transit services.
- According to the recently
approved operating budget, Caltrain will
adjust its schedules to eliminate two round-
trip trains. The service reduction is planned
to start in September.
Caltrain shuttles 80X, 81X, and 82X -
Originally proposed to be eliminated, under a
new agreement with Muni, the number of trips
on these bus routes will be reduced instead,
especially in the afternoon. Also, Muni will
assume the operating subsidy for 82X
between downtown and the Presidio. The
changes in the express shuttle service will
take effect in September as well.
Cuts in VTA services
- Recently VTA reduced
the frequency of the light rail and route 10
Airport Flyer from every 10 minutes to every
15 minutes. In addition, bus routes 41 and 43
have been eliminated, which serve Caltrain
riders from Lawrence station.
Passengers board the new low-floor car at South San Francisco station (left). Governor Gray Davis is interviewed by reporters
while riding the new "Baby Bullet" car. Caltrans director Jeff Morales sits behind him (right). (Photos: Margaret Okuzumi)