May 17, 2011

Caltrain’s express service boosts ridership


Photo courtesy of Caltrain.


Caltrain’s “experiment” with providing express service on the weekends is paying off. Ridership on weekend Baby Bullet trains increased 54 percent in April compared to March. An average of 222 people boarded or alighted weekend express trains at the San Francisco station for a total ridership of 7,784 for the month.

Although the dramatic increase is due in part to the opening of the San Francisco Giants baseball season, there is evidence that the new service is its own success story.

According to Caltrain’s Director of Transportation Michelle Bouchard, the weekend Baby Bullet trains, as well as the local trains scheduled before and after them, have seen a 30 percent boost in ridership since the beginning of the year.

“This is a strong indication that the new weekend Baby Bullet service is not just existing riders who changed to the Baby Bullet trains, but a real increase in overall ridership,” said Bouchard.

The service, which was suggested by Caltrain riders, was introduced as a pilot program in January. Originally scheduled to operate for three months, it has been extended because of its success.

The schedule features two roundtrips with each train making seven stops between the terminals in San Francisco and San Jose — Millbrae, San Mateo, Hillsdale, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

The express service mimics Caltrain’s popular weekday Baby Bullet service, which debuted in 2004 as a way to attract new riders and increase revenue. Travel time from San Francisco to San Jose was cut from an hour and 36 minutes on a local train to just 57 minutes on a Baby Bullet train. The service was an immediate success and led to national recognition for the Peninsula railroad.

The success of the weekend service comes at a time when Caltrain ridership is at an all-time high. Results of the annual passenger count show that average weekday ridership is 12.7 percent higher than last year. Overall average weekend ridership also increased 21 percent over the previous year.

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