News

Guest opinion: Caltrain, bikes and 21st century choices

All it takes is a trip downtown at 6 p.m. on a weeknight to see the changes.

Bikes overflow the racks on Castro Street and are locked to every available tree and post. Crowds of people cross Central Expressway on foot and on bikes with each signal cycle. The Caltrain platform teems with riders pushing their way onto trains that are standing room-only by the time they reach Palo Alto.

This is not just casual observation either. Caltrain recently released the results of its passenger counts and triennial customer survey: ridership is at an all-time high with a 54 percent increase since 2010; ridership growth continues to strain capacity in peak periods; and all but one station saw growth. Caltrain sees this growth as a sign of continued economic recovery, as anyone who fights workday traffic on Highway 101 can attest.

Much of Caltrain's growth comes from bikes. The number of people bringing bikes aboard has grown a whopping 121 percent since 2010, more than double the overall ridership growth rate. While the growth is partly due to Caltrain adding a second bike car to every train in 2011, bike-aboard ridership has continued to increase, up 19.6 percent last year. This year bike-aboard riders make up over 11 percent of all riders, making Caltrain the nation's leader in bikes-on-transit. And yet, despite a capacity of 80 bikes on most trains, people with bikes are still regularly denied boarding due to overcrowding, primarily in Peninsula cities from Millbrae to Mountain View. That's how popular the service is.

What's more, how people arrive and depart stations is rapidly changing. While walking to reach stations has increased modestly by 7 percent since 2010, taking transit (VTA, BART, Muni or shuttles) is flat at 4 to 7 percent. The most dramatic changes are that driving to and parking at stations has dropped by 24 percent and bicycling to the station is up 30 percent. And that's just the last three years.

So what does this mean? It means that some commonly-held assumptions that we're too suburban to rely on walking, biking and transit, and that people won't shift from solo driving, are wrong. People already are. In fact, 40 percent of Caltrain riders report they are car-free and that doesn't include "car-lite" riders like me who own a car they rarely use. Today's transit-dependent riders are not low-income either. The average Caltrain rider makes $117,000 a year. Most riders are making a conscious choice to not drive that's not simply driven by economics. It's driven by a desire to escape wasting time driving in traffic.

For Caltrain, it means recognizing that for many riders, bikes are the most convenient first and last mile solution, faster than shuttles for trips up to 3 miles when there's congestion, and cheaper than car parking at stations, both for the rider and for Caltrain. It means ensuring that bike capacity of new electrified trains is at least 10 percent of total capacity. It means expanding bike share into office areas like North Bayshore and into popular housing areas like the Mission in San Francisco.

For cities, it means not spending money on expensive parking garages that will bring more vehicles into congested areas, and instead improve walking and biking connections to existing and emerging office and housing areas like San Antonio Center and El Camino Real. It means implementing Transportation Demand Management programs (TDMs) like Stanford did, with incentives that go beyond shuttles to include benefits for people who take transit, bike, walk, carpool or drive at off-peak times. And consider charging for parking at office sites. It's hard to compete with free.

Times have changed and people are showing they want options other than driving. How will we invest to support them?

Janet LaFleur is a Mountain View resident who writes a Voice blog about about bicycling.

Comments

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Posted by dc
a resident of North Whisman
on May 27, 2014 at 9:55 pm

People don't want to pay an additional parking fee when they ride the train. Hmm where in Mtn View can I park for free.... Nothing worse than getting stuck at the station for an hour cause you can't bring a bike on. denied boarding ahhh.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 27, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@dc The survey asked if how people arrived at the station, not whether they paid to park in a Caltrain lot or found another place to park. So having a lower percentage of people driving to stations in 2014 vs 2010 isn't simply because they they have to pay for parking. There are places people park for free all day and walk to the station. I see them mostly on the other side of the tracks from downtown when I ride my bike to and from the station.


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Posted by Good God
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 28, 2014 at 2:35 pm

"Bikes overflow the racks on Castro Street and are locked to every available tree and post. Crowds of people cross Central Expressway on foot and on bikes with each signal cycle. The Caltrain platform teems with riders pushing their way onto trains that are standing room-only by the time they reach Palo Alto."

Good God that is an ugly picture, we will be no different than Japan. But that will never happen, this is California and it's California Dreaming here. We are a car centric state. The distances are too great to walk and who wants to be on a sardine packed trolly/train.


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Posted by Mark
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 28, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Yes, I guess those are the only two choices and there is nothing, NOTHING that can change it. Good God, we're all doomed aren't we? Good God.


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Posted by Best bet
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 28, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Best bet would be to widen the roads for cars, since they are not going away and with all the new people coming here that should be priority.

@Mark, Yes, if the liberals communists have there way, there will be no other choice.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 28, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Good God The fixes aren't that hard. Bike racks are extremely inexpensive, and where there's not sidewalk space, car parking can be converted to bike parking. In the space of one car you can easily fit 8-10 bikes. So we can accommodate more people with bike parking than car parking.

Caltrain can add more cars per train and more trains per hour. They have plans to do both they just need secure funding. Overcrowded crosswalks can be fixed by not making people wait so long to cross or building a tunnel or bridge. These aren't insurmountable fixes and in the long run will accommodate more people with fewer resources, both monetary and environmental.

As for whether we're too car-centric to change, I'd say the Caltrain data proves otherwise. The choices our population are making have changed (and I predict will continue to change), even if your personal choices have not.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 28, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Best bet We don't need to eliminate cars from our cities. We need to not build cities that require them, in part because there's not enough room for every resident to use a car for every trip.

It's not an efficient use of resources to drag along a couple of tons of metal to pick up a gallon of milk at a store that's a short walk away. And yet plenty of people do it simply because we've made it so unpleasant and in some cases unsafe to make that short walk.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I'm pretty sure "Good God" was being facetious, with the whole "that will never happen" bit?


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Robert You could be right, but I've heard similar statement from people at city council meetings that weren't kidding.


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Posted by Wealthy Cyclist
a resident of Gemello
on May 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Shifting to biking and taking Caltrain, has been a financial bonus for me. Total savings in car payments, insurance, gas, maintenance, tires, registration, depreciation and parking are saving me over $2200 per year. I have more money to spend at the nice restaurants on Castro Street and it's always easy to find a parking for a bike.


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 28, 2014 at 5:01 pm

If you are unsure of the consequences of too many people in one area, go to China. In the city the sidewalks are the size of a lane of traffic and still it's super crowded and not wide enough for the masses of people. There are so many bike riders and a few cars that try to wedge through them. Bikers get hit and killed every day. It is a culture shock.
If that is what the city council wants for Mtn View, then keep building.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 28, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Wealthy cyclist I haven't calculated it, but I know driving less than 2,000 miles a year has saved me money even though I pay $126 every month for my Caltrain pass. Saving money on gas is one thing, but the unpredictable costs of car maintenance is what I really don't miss.

@Reality Check We are in no danger of having problems like China due to population density. We're not even close to San Francisco or Boston and they're pretty popular, attractive places to live.


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Posted by Jame
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I found these stats really interesting Janet. Even without great infrastructure, people are choosing, on their own accord not to drive. That's huge! We can make our cities and towns more walkable and bikeable without turning them into "Manhattan."

Giving people transportation choices helps the environment and reduces traffic and congestion. It looks like a win/win to me. The cost to the city is pretty minimal (compared with projects like road expansions or widening, to improve bike and pedestrian facilities. It also makes the roads more pleasant and safer.

We should empower people to use the right tool for the job: sometimes that's a car, sometimes that's a bike and sometimes that's your two feet.


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Posted by Rick
a resident of Willowgate
on May 28, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Good article Janet. I've been biking in the South Bay for a long time and only just started using CalTrain as part of my comute. I now understand why it's so popular.

@Best bet The best bet would be to widen the roads for People. They are what's not going away. Then we can let the people decide the best way to get around.


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Posted by commuter
a resident of The Crossings
on May 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Mountain View bike share is missing most of their potential users by targeting only the "last mile" crowd. There are already lots of shuttles that take people from the train station to major employers. What bike share really needs to target is the "first mile", i.e. helping people get from their homes to the train stations. The city should deploy bike share stations at local shopping plazas (which are already distributed around residential areas), especially the ones that are on existing major bike routes.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 28, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@commuter There are so few bike share stations so far I can't criticize where they put them, just that there aren't enough in Mountain View.

I'd like to have a bike share station near my home. I'd be willing to walk the 1/3 mile to the Safeway on Shoreline for one. There is a station on Rengstorff near California St by the apartments and the park, and a new station at the corner of Latham and Showers. And since you live in the Crossings, isn't the San Antonio Station one near you?


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 28, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Silly question...but why not actually buy a bike rather than just rent one? I'm not sure who gets served by these. In tourist areas sure or in very high density areas maybe. It just seems that if someone were using it for a daily commute , they would just own one.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 28, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Hmmm I own multiple bikes and take one on Caltrain for my work commute to San Jose everyday. But on the weekends that I go to San Francisco where there's a higher rate of bike theft I prefer to use the bike share bikes. And there are times like when I was Christmas shopping in SF. I took bike share from Caltrain to Powell St, walked to shop all the way across to the other side of Union Square, then I picked up another bike on Stockton St. Much easier than dragging my bike with me as I shopped or walking back to Powell St.

Also, there's a limited amount of space for bikes on Caltrain so it's good to have the option of not taking a bike. It's not a big problem since I commute to San Jose which is less crowded, but if I were commuting to San Francisco I would definitely prefer to take bike share than bring my own bike.


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Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 28, 2014 at 11:18 pm

I'm having a hard time buying some of this...

I frequently ride Caltrain. I do not believe that 1 in 9 riders has a bike...especially as an overall blended rate. Even on the commute-hour trains, I don't think the ratio is that high. Granted that's "eyeballing"...so I'll start doing some actual counts. However, during non-commute times...on a train like those coming back after a Giants game, there are VERY FEW bikes...can't be more than 10+ out of a train jam-packed with (800?) standing-room-only riders. So, if those trains are also counted in the numbers, I'm not seeing an average rate of 11%. Another data point: Daily Ridership is listed at approximately 50,000. Are we to believe that 5,500 riders per day are taking bikes?

Janet- you make this statement: "Caltrain can add more cars per train and more trains per hour. They have plans to do both"

I've been frustrated that Caltrain doesn't implement this seemingly obvious solution. However, I've read nowhere that this is imminent. Perhaps you can link the article or something coming from a Caltrain source. In a recent story I vaguely recall Caltrain explaining why they could not do these things.


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Posted by Stop the freeloading
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2014 at 11:40 pm

As a regular rider of standing room only Caltrains to and from the city, I'm bothered that entitled cyclists are able to take up so much space on the train for the same price as an unencumbered rider. This entitlement, currently, is enshrined in archaic state law, but could be changed. And if it were changed then Caltrain would be able to provide more passengers service with fewer delays. Passengers transporting bicycles should pay more to reflect the additional burden they place upon the system.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 28, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@skeptical The Caltrain passenger counts were conducted in February so they didn't account for Giants game traffic. But then again, February isn't prime season for bike commuters either, being during a colder, wetter and darker time of year. I encourage you to read the Caltrain counts document yourself to learn more about their methodology: Web Link

As for more cars on existing trains, Caltrain has something in play to get cars from Metrolink in LA, and with electrification the plan is to add about 2 trains per rush hour. That's all I know. We'd have to ask Caltrain for more details.

@Freedloading Caltrain also spends $5-8 extra on drivers who park at their stations and on people who use their "free" shuttle buses. Perhaps they should be charging for those services as well. The extra dollars could go toward adding cars or extra trains.

As for slowing the trains down due to loading or offloading bikes, a large part of that comes from Caltrain's policy that requires passengers with bikes to wait until others have boarded/de-boarded first. If Caltrain had bikes go first, the process would be faster.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 6:23 am

More trains, more trains with a bike car(s), huge bike sharing facility for last mile workers or use of residents at all other times

Widening roads in a built up area will be a disaster, example Shoreline Blvd.

We aren't going to get rid of the car, just think it would be nice to have options and choices.


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Posted by Built it and they came
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 29, 2014 at 6:54 am

Exactly Garret. We've built up our road infrastructure, and it can be tweaked at times, but now it's pretty much maxed out with regard to more roads/lanes.
Its time to begin the build out of the other tools we have in the tool box. I don't know any golfer who only brings one club, or a carpenter who only has a hammer.
Every example of increased bike infrastructure has resulted in more users, that means less cars/traffic for those using cars.


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Posted by ronanmandel
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 29, 2014 at 6:58 am

I've been taking my bike on Caltrain since back in the day when you had to have a permit, and while things have certainly gotten much better I agree that there still exists significant room for improvement. Is there an explanation for the woefully insufficient bike storage space at the Mt. View station? That's seems like a relatively easy problem to fix, no?


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Posted by Jammed
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 29, 2014 at 6:59 am

One thing this CLEARLY shows is the increasing number of people who want to ride their bikes as a way of getting around. Those crowds on the platform could be in cars on the roads.
Lets continue to improve things for cyclists so we can keep them on their bikes and reduce the number of cars in traffic.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 7:15 am

Caltrain can't add cars to trains because then the trains would be longer than the platforms. They would need to stop, then start again and roll forward a bit to unload/load the other cars. This is slow, dangerous and inefficient. Electrified trains would not have a separate locomotive and would gain an extra passenger car for the same length train. There are also safety reasons they can't run trains closer together now, but they are implementing a new train control system that should help that. Still, they don't have enough money to operate more trains and do the added maintenance. Despite the heavy demand, Caltrain is in a struggle to survive. There are a lot of Caltrain haters out there who are opposed to giving them another penny, let alone enough money to fully modernize the system.


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Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 9:46 am

@Skeptical - There are spots for 80 bikes on the trains, and rush hour trains the bike spots fill. That's 80 riders on trains that max out at ~600-700 passengers.

The off peak trains have a *higher* percentage of cyclists than the peak trains, because connecting services (shuttles/VTA/SamTrans) are so poor off-peak


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Posted by Bike Only Trains?
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 29, 2014 at 10:04 am

I wonder how feasible having special run bike only trains? All cars would be bike cars, nobody without a bike or accompanying someone with a bike can get on.


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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 29, 2014 at 10:17 am

Let's see this come next winter in the rain and/or cold.

Or at Christmas when we're rushing with a millions purchases filling our arms.

Bikes are so easy then...

I still believe quiet, clean electric cars can improve the ecological health of CA without sacrificing our convenience and freedom of individual movement. I want to get to places bikes don't work...


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 29, 2014 at 10:38 am

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Linda First and foremost, I think you're missing the point, which is that more people are choosing to take Caltrain and are using bikes to get to and from the train. It's not that everyone is making those choices for all trips. Nor is anyone expecting you personally to make that choice.

Second, the survey period was February which is the heart of the cold, rainy and dark season (albeit less rainy this year). So clearly significant numbers of people ride bikes in the winter for their Caltrain commute.

As for the Christmas shopping, it just depends on what you're buying and how well equipped your bike is. I was able to do all my Christmas shopping and package delivery to the post office by bike because I have the right equipment. Plus, I shop at places like Stanford Shopping Center where they make it easy to arrive by bike. They even have home delivery service available for people who don't feel like carrying their bags (not just bicyclists either) Photos: Web Link Web Link Web Link


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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 29, 2014 at 10:50 am

Janet said:

"It's not an efficient use of resources to drag along a couple of tons of metal to pick up a gallon of milk at a store that's a short walk away. And yet plenty of people do it simply because we've made it so unpleasant and in some cases unsafe to make that short walk."

And if you are crippled? Or the weather is raging with rain and wind? Or you need to bring the kids along as you have no sitter to cover during your trip to the store? Or all three of these possibilities at once?

The main thing is that cars were working fine and flowing freely, but were noisy & fouled the air. EV's don't do that, but we are gridlocking the streets intentionally to force folks onto public transit or to limit them to only where they can walk or ride a bike. That makes a grass roots revolution against regional, appointed, non-democratic government next to impossible, becsuse if we depend upon public transit, we are fully controlled by the very government we might need to fight.

And, as any of us could produce electricity for an electric car with solar panels on our roofs, as I do, why is it not an efficient use of resources? Better than the gas used by the train or the buses.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 10:58 am

Janet, try not to take the bait, I dislike the fact that whenever there's a discussion about finding *actual* solutions to *actual* current problems, things end up getting dragged down by these paranoid screeds...


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 11:01 am

@ Linda

Seen bikes with traliers, if this doesn't work, car by the hour or Taxi. I still see people having cars, just the options of driving, riding or walking. We desigined our lives around the car, we don't rely on store delivery services that was offered so many years ago.

Spending money to add more capacity for trains, that will carry people with or without bikes and the best way to achieve this goal. Will take money, lots of tools in the tool box and support
We have way too much opposition.


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Posted by Adina
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Linda, it is important to have enough space for people who have limited mobility because of disability or age to be able to drive and park. That's why it should be safer and easier for the able-bodied to get around without driving, to save the parking and road space for people who need it.


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Posted by Adina
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 12:49 pm

@donald Caltrain just released information about a potential initiative to extend platforms to accommodate longer trains and more riders, see: Web Link


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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 29, 2014 at 2:15 pm

@Adina

Road space and parking are currently being reduced to get people out of their cars. Any time most folks decide to drive all at once, as in inclement weather or in the case of evacuation such as for a tidal wave following an earthquake, or whatever, we will no longer have the capacity for all to drive.

If the MV parking formula remained the same as it was before, and if California St., S. Castro St., and likely El Camino Real, etc., were not going on a road diet, we wouldn't be disabling ourselves in our ability to drive when we really need to. I don't object to bikes, or public transit. Just when they are in exchange for car use capacity, and non-elected regional government control mandates it.

@Robert

If I appear a "paranoid screed" as you said above, investigate and see the evidence for yourselves. Go to www.PostSustainailiityInstitute.org and hear this from experts in various fields who have been on this for years already. Read what their directors have discovered. They are exposing real crime in government, so don't sleep through the reduction of our democracy all around you.

I've investigated this myself for one full ears now and am shocked that those I helped get into office would do this to us. I'm a liberal democrat, a Berkeley Coed of the '60's who can still recognize the loss of rights and freedoms. Look into it everyone.


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Posted by If we didn't build more
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 29, 2014 at 2:15 pm

If we didn't build more office and housing buildings, then maybe we won't have to look like Japan. I'm all for the young to ride bikes, i use to too, until i was 15.5 and never looked back since. Don't miss it at all.

And yes, we all know the ones that ride their bike to work, they stink up the hallway and any rooms they enter. Nasty!!


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 29, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Linda "Road space and parking are currently being reduced to get people out of their cars."
Not exactly. The intent is to allow more people to use the space by making bicycling and walking, which use far less space per person, more convenient and comfortable so that more choose it.

"Any time most folks decide to drive all at once, as in inclement weather or in the case of evacuation such as for a tidal wave following an earthquake, or whatever, we will no longer have the capacity for all to drive."
We have never had the capacity for everyone to drive at the same time. Ever. I remember being stuck in traffic after the '89 earthquake for over an hour. That wasn't an evacuation either, just people rushing to get home to see their families. If I had been a bike commuter back then I would made the 7 mile trip home much quicker by bike than I did that day by car.

I understand your concern about re-allocating space that's been optimized for cars to other forms of transportation. But the goal of our transportation system is to move as many people as possible, as efficiently and safely as possible, at the least expense.

With the population we already have and our expected growth, we can't do that by continuing to build cities designed on the assumption that every person takes a car for every trip.


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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 29, 2014 at 4:06 pm

I'm saying we need to maintain the # of lanes not reduce them. If we all never could quite get out driving in case of an important evacuation, why make it worse? How many of us plan to bike out or take the bus if a major tidal wave is bearing down on us? Less lanes = more deaths.


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Posted by Scared
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 29, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Linda Curtis has a good point: "How many of us plan to bike out or take the bus if a major tidal wave is bearing down on us? "

Can we demand Google to develop flying bicycles for us so we can escape tidal waves? They have been ruining our city with their free wifi that doesn't work and creating jobs that we can't get. It's the least that they can do for us!

I recommend that we issue life vests to each and every Mountain View resident until Google has set-up their flying bicycle program. Sure, it might not save everybody, but it's the best we can do in the short term. If necessary, can we require life vests in addition to seat belts? Can a city do that, or does it need to go to the state or federal government?

Thanks Linda for alerting us to this potential disaster!


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Posted by Train of thought
a resident of Gemello
on May 29, 2014 at 5:16 pm

OMG Linda Curtis. Did you really just write that?


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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 29, 2014 at 5:55 pm

@ Scared

I think you get it: All the rapid changes to be made and made recently that were mandated and the many unexpected or unanticipated effects they could have or will have on us.

@ Train of Thought

OMG I said what exactly? You must not get it.


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Posted by UC Davis Grad
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 29, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Well, it can be safely said that all of us can safely ignore Janet's screeds here. Her reference to something called the Post Sustainability Institute? Nothing more than a group of paranoids who somehow insist that the United Nations is out to get us. Yep.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 29, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@UC Davis Grad I think you meant to write "Linda" not "Janet." The Post Sustainability Institute folks would probably tar and feather me for promoting radical concepts like public transit.


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Posted by UC Davis Grad
a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 29, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Mea culpa, Janet. Yes, I meant to write "Linda," but something went wrong between my brain and my keyboard. My apologies.

And yes, the merry band known as the Post Sustainability Institute would be out there with their pitchforks and torches, were they to hear of such heresy. But then again, one is known for the enemies one acquires...


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Posted by Elaine
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 29, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Janet, your last question is exactly what's been on my mind lately, biking to and from my job in North Bayshore.

There is no more space to drive or park cars. How will Mountain View invest to serve people who do the right thing by not driving a car everywhere? Right now the drivers are freeloading off of us. When will Mountain View show the courage and commitment to retool? Bikes are the future...and supporting them with infrastructure is not that expensive, as it turns out. When will our city support us?


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Posted by Irrelevant observation
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 30, 2014 at 12:06 am

This thread has two examples of Poe's law: "Without a blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing."


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Posted by Waving from the hill
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 30, 2014 at 6:28 am

So glad I know what to do in a tsunami. Yes, I'll get on my bike and ride about 15 minutes up hill. Now I'm saved. Your car will never be useful in an evacuation unless you have 24 hours notice.
Oh, and the times Mountain View has been affected by a tsunami, has been never, but when you're out of rational arguments, sometimes you have no choice but to make a crazy argument in order to try and save face. It usually has the opposite affect though.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2014 at 8:22 am

Eadthquake is something to take seriously in fact any natural disaster.

Everything has to be trucked in or shipped in. If threat of tidal wave head to Los Altos Hills. I would worry about highways being knocked out along with the Port of Oaklanx.

Earthquake, damaged highways, traffic in and out of Silicon Valley would be a nightmare. All those who live in the easy bay needing to get home.



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Posted by Survivalist
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2014 at 8:39 am

A stout mountain bike after a big earthquake will be a very useful tool.
A car would likely be useless due to road/bridge destruction and blockage.
You don't need to travel very far at all to be safe from a tsunami. We have ample warning systems for that on the west coast. People could even walk to the slightly higher ground needed for safety, somewhere like Foothill college.


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Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 30, 2014 at 9:57 am

Wow, Linda -- all I can say is Wow.

Are you really objecting to proposals to right-size roads - like the proposal to remove an auto lane from the short stretch of Castro south of El Camino to improve safety - based on the need to evacuate from a "major tidal wave" bearing down on us? If so, you've been watching too many apocalyptic Hollywood movies, or you fried your brain with too many hallucinogenic drugs back at Berkeley.

First of all, besides the fact that there are no occurrences of tsunamis striking the Bay shoreline in the historical record, authorities on geological risks including the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) and California Geological Survey (CGS) show NO tsunami inundation hazard in populated areas of Mountain View in their mapping. See Web Link

By your logic, we should never reduce roadway capacity for autos, regardless of the benefit it might produce (e.g., safer for pedestrians to cross, safer for bicyclists to ride along, more pleasant for businesses due to calmer traffic), because someday we might be struck by a one-in-100,000 year tsunami and need all that road capacity for an evacuation. Extending your logic, we should really add as many lanes to roads as we can, because it would make evacuations easier. First up, I nominate widening El Camino by 3 more lanes in each direction. Never mind that we'd have to bulldoze the buildings on each side, and it might chop the backyards off your precious rental properties... let's do it for tsunami safety!


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Posted by JoelBlatt
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 30, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Interesting discussion when you exclude polemics and focus on solutions. Interesting that walking has only received scant attention. A significant portion of Mountain View is within a 20- to 60-minutes walk from a Caltrain station. I used to commute using that method and the exercise did me wonders. For those with more limited time or extended distance (on either end of their commute), biking makes more sense. In either case you get a side benefit -- increased health and fitness that benefits you personally and on the job. Riding in a car does none of this -- although is clearly needed in other circumstances as voiced in other comments. A balanced set of options, including better train service for all types of passengers, makes sense. As an ex-New-Yorker, we could worse than emulating Manhattan with respect to public transit.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 30, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@JoelBlatt Walking is great because it's the cheapest option of all: no parking, no shuttles, no bike share, racks or bikes on trains required. Walking is the #1 way people arrive at Caltrain now, surpassing driving to stations for the first time in 2013 (28% vs 23%). I should have pointed that out in the story. But then again, Caltrain missed out highlighting that too. They just said walking was up. Web Link

Part of that jump are transit oriented developments (TODs) that have been built near stations, in San Francisco's SOMA, down the Peninsula and in San Jose. But once the walking distances hit about a mile (15-20 min) people start to look for other options, which is why bikes and shuttles are so popular in suburban areas Caltrain serves.

One thing I personally prefer about bikes vs walking that I like is that I can carry my laptop more comfortably on my bike rack than on my shoulder or in a backpack. I can even pick up a bag of groceries on the way home and the extra weight isn't noticeable on my bike. If I didn't have to carry anything more than my purse to work I'd be more inclined to walk.


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Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 1, 2014 at 2:14 am

A few points to consider from the Caltrain questionaire stats:

"#1 reason for riding: Avoid Traffic 63%."

This implies that if traffic wasn't so bad, they would prefer to drive.

"Transit Dependent: 40% had no access to a car or didn't drive"

This implies that almost half of the riders are doing so with no choice. (no car)

"More people are walking to stations (28%) or as was stated before: Top way people are getting to stations 28%"

23% drove
23% used transit
9% dropped off by car
======
So, 55% of the passengers got to work via some sort of motorized vehicle.


=============

My point is that it appears that increased ridership has more to do with the lack of alternatives than it does by significant improvements of service and reliability. Also, put the ridership charts up against a stock chart of the NASDAQ. Guess what? Caltrain ridership growth mirrors our economic growth. Now, if ridership growth outstripped economic growth, then that would be significant.


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 1, 2014 at 10:10 am

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Hmmm Our roadways can't accommodate the growth that we can achieve via walking, biking and transit. Caltrain was able to accommodate the growth, how's accommodating more people working on Hwy 101 or 880? Solo-person vehicles simply take up to much space. It's that simple.

As for so many Caltrain riders being car-free, a large portion of them choose not to buy a car because they've figured out they don't need to own one. They can get around just fine on transit, biking and walking and by using short-term car rentals like Zipcar. With an average income of $117,000, it's not a money issue, it's a lifestyle choice.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 2, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Janet. "As for so many Caltrain riders being car-free, a large portion of them choose not to buy a car because they've figured out they don't need to own one. They can get around just fine on transit, biking and walking and by using short-term car rentals like Zipcar"

1. How do you know this is a choice? What is your data source?
2. They can get around just fine on transit, biking and walking"? What is your data source for this? What does "just fine" mean. Does it mean that they can? Or does it mean that they do, but would prefer something better?

What I see is that car usage growth on our roads is outstripping bike usage growth as a percentage of traffic. Do you have numbers that contradict this?


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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 2, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Hmmm According to the Caltrain survey the average rider is a man 25-34 with a college degree and a full-time job making $117,000. Given people with far less income drive cars regularly, I'd say that speaks for itself. If they weren't getting by "just fine" with Caltrain, they'd buy a car. They have to get to their high-paying, full-time jobs somehow.

As for your belief that car growth is outstripping bike growth, where are you getting that? The data and stories I see everywhere are how people, especially younger people, are driving less much to the chagrin of the car industry. Goggle "Americans driving less" and you'll see choice articles like these:
Web Link
Web Link


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Posted by Enjoyment
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jun 2, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Hmm, you seem to be working REALLY hard at trying to stay factually afloat in this discussion.
To be clear though:
"A few points to consider from the Caltrain questionaire stats:
"#1 reason for riding: Avoid Traffic 63%."
This implies that if traffic wasn't so bad, they would prefer to drive."
**No, YOU implied this in an effort to support your argument. One could make up any number of fantastical reasons.

"Transit Dependent: 40% had no access to a car or didn't drive"

This implies that almost half of the riders are doing so with no choice. (no car)
**No, again YOU implied this "No choice" reason...made it right up right here without anything to go on but your hunch.

You asked for data from Janet, yet you feel no problem putting up a "What I see" statement without any data at all, but you expect someone to put all sorts of data up if it goes against your already lost argument.
Enjoy.


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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 2, 2014 at 2:43 pm

My source for concerns in seismically active areas is the California Academy of Sciences, warning all along the Pacific Rim of the dangers of building high along arterials, as there is no upper limit to the Richter Scale, but there are considerable limits to the capacity to which buildings can be built to withstand earthquakes.

When they fail, they block the roadways. This is particularly ill advised in the case of the arterial roadways, as then emergency crews trying to come in to effect rescues are severely hampered.

Just because most of the scenarios the CA Academy of Sciences discusses haven't yet happened, it doesn't means that they cannot happen given enough time.,,

Look at the 9.9 in Chile about two years ago. No buildings are built to that standard even here. And a few months ago, Chile had another, at 8.5, I think it was, further north. If these faults continue to adjust northward, we will eventually have our turn.

So why are we not listening to the CA experts? Instead we choose those driven to make huge money if UN Agenda 21 building standards that work best for places like Europe are mandated upon us.


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Posted by Foil
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jun 2, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Asteroid strikes will happen as well. Its a fact. Why are we not preparing?!?!


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Posted by Linda Curtis
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 2, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Because of the probabilities. That's why I listen to the scientists. And they have so many great ideas to solve our transportation problems that are being ignored. I could go into these ideas, but why bother? Sounds like most of you have your minds set on only certain things.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 2, 2014 at 4:45 pm

@Janet, you wrote, "According to the Caltrain survey the average rider is a man 25-34 with a college degree and a full-time job making $117,000. Given people with far less income drive cars regularly, I'd say that speaks for itself. If they weren't getting by "just fine" with Caltrain, they'd buy a car."

Do you understand what "average" means in terms of statistics and data? Average can be very misleading, especially when examining the widely swinging salaries in the bay area. Here is a set of salaries that is an average of $117,000: $30,000 35,000 $40,000,$80,000 $400,000 As you can see, 60% of these make less than 50k, yet the average is a misleading $117,000. Regardless, I think you are making great leaps and bounds of deduction from very sparse data.

When you write "I'd say that speaks for itself" and "If they weren't getting by "just fine" with Caltrain, they'd <insert behavior here>", I still don't see any data that shows this. I know that you *want* it to mean something and those desires are filling in the blanks.

I was hoping you had some more available regarding growth rate of bicycle usage vs traffic. For example, X thousands of people commute by car into the silicon valley vs by train or train & bike combo. Caltrain has the data you mentioned available and I'm sure CalTrans has the automobile data available. I did goggle[sic.] around, but nobody appears to have written a story that ties the data together. The conspiracy-theory part of me believes if the data was more compelling, then the bicycle lobby would have published and promoted it!


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 2, 2014 at 4:59 pm

@Enjoyment

All I'm pointing out is that the data that Janet forwarded has multiple interpretations. Janet and bike advocates are choosing to interpret this data to show that bikes + train are the users preference, because that is what they tend to do—there is measurable growth. Does that mean that it is a true choice? Or is it the lesser of two evils? Or, perhaps they don't actually have the choice of a car, even if they are affluent. The survey did not make these determinations.

Another example. I like mushrooms. But why do I like mushrooms? Is it because that I hate carrots, onions and all other vegetables? No. My #1 reason for eating mushrooms is not that I hate the other options, but that I find eating mushrooms to be a pleasurable thing. If "alternative transportation" options were built as products to attract users, then it is way more effective to go after the enjoyment factor. Unfortunately, they are done to attempt to "put out fires"…they totally forget the human element.

How many Google employees would use the SF—>MV shuttle buses if they didn't do their pickups/dropoffs often, in very comfortable vehicles (wifi, etc..) and be at a low cost (ok, free)? Google gets it. Transit planners and stingy taxpayers don't.


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