Group wants regular train service backBy Will Oremus
Officials from around San Mateo County who are circulating a resolution calling for more local Caltrain service are standing by their assertions in the face of criticism from the transit agency's top executive.
A week after Caltrain CEO Mike Scanlon e-mailed city managers to highlight what he said were "significant misstatements of fact" in the resolution, local council members including Terry Nagel of Burlingame and Kelly Fergusson of Menlo Park replied with a letter of their own.
The letter reads in part, "We feel strongly that San Mateo County residents could be better served with a schedule that provides more balanced service than the current schedule, which added more stops to 'Baby Bullet' stations at the expense of service to other stations."
It goes on to say, "We stand by every word in the resolution."
The letter is the latest salvo in an exchange that has been heated at times since Caltrain embarked on a "reinvention" in 2004 that cut back on local service in favor of commuter-oriented express service. Overall ridership has jumped since the changes, but residents of several smaller towns are feeling left out.
Two stations in San Mateo County -- Atherton and Broadway in Burlingame -- have seen weekday service eliminated entirely.
The ad hoc group of council members, calling itself the Coalition to Expand Transit Service, disputes Caltrain's assertion that the new schedule is optimal.
The resolution calls for Caltrain to bring in an outside consultant "to develop and evaluate alternative train schedules that would provide a better balance between local service and express train service within the county, in order to meet the needs of more passengers."
The group is asking cities in San Mateo County to consider adopting the resolution at their next council meetings.
Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg said, "We would question the fact that there are any major drawbacks to what has occurred. More people are riding. And while there are now no stops in Atherton, for instance, there are more stops a mile away in Menlo Park."
Nagel said, "It's true that what they did saved the train at the time. But it was a drastic schedule that was put into place under duress, and they did not stop to ask the cities or the riders what they wanted."
The group cites the recent closure of the upscale restaurant Pisces at the Burlingame Broadway station as one example of the service changes' side effects.
Caltrain has no plans to reopen the station until 2014, when it hopes to overhaul its service with a larger fleet of quickly, electrically powered trains that can run much more often.
Copyright ©2007 San Mateo Daily News. Published 03/14/2007.