Ridership fond of Caltrain's Baby BulletBy Marisa Lagos
It looks like Caltrain's $163 million bet on its "Baby Bullet" train has paid off.
Four months after rolling out the express train service between San Jose and San Francisco, ridership has increased dramatically, spurring revenues, Caltrain officials said.
Since the Baby Bullet service began in June, overall ridership has increased 17 percent and weekday figures have jumped about 11 percent, according to Caltrain spokeswoman Jayme Kuntz.
In September, the agency made $200,000 more than it did the same month a year before.
The Baby Bullet makes only six or seven stops on the Peninsula, compared to Caltrain's normal 22 stations, slashing the commute between San Jose and The City by almost 40 minutes. The majority of the project was funded by a state grant, which was used for track construction as well as the purchase of new Baby Bullet trains.
Kuntz attributed the ridership increase directly to service improvements and changes in Caltrain's timetables. The transit agency's entire schedule shifted in June to accommodate the new trains. The numbers were boosted, she conceded, by the fact that prior to June, Caltrain had not offered weekend service in two years.
However, "overall ridership numbers are up dramatically," she said, adding that about 3,000 more people hop on the train on an average weekday than they did before the express line was available.
"Traffic congestion or the lack thereof impacts our ridership numbers dramatically. When the economy slowed, there were huge layoffs down in [Silicon] Valley, and there was much less traffic on [U.S. Highway] 101," Kuntz said. "People went back to driving cars because they're faster. With the Baby Bullet, now you have an option that's equally fast if not faster than driving, and you don't have to deal with parking."
Weekend riders have also received some new perks, she said.
Before shutting down Saturday and Sunday train service in 2002, Caltrain ran 52 trains per weekend. Now, they offer an extra 10 on Sunday. People are "absolutely" using the weekend service, Kuntz said.
"We hear they want more trains to run later on the weekends -- we don't know if we have the ridership to support, but we will look into it," she added.
Copyright ©2004 San Mateo Daily Journal. Published 11/10/2004.