Caltrain ridership plunged 9.5 percent during the first six months of this fiscal year, Executive Director Mike Scanlon told the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board yesterday.
He made these declarations during a meeting where the transit agency announced the release of $2.7 million toward grade-separation projects in San Bruno.
Train rides dropped by an average 100,000 a month over a six-month period beginning July 1 compared to 2008 and farebox receipts are down 4.4 percent during the same period for the fiscal year 2009-10.
The good news, Scanlon said, is bicycle trips are up 30 percent. Bicycle enthusiasts, however, are urging the transit agency to increase capacity for bicycles to 80 during peak hours so that bicyclists do not get "bumped” from a train.
The board also heard from concerned Palo Alto residents who want the agency to take a more proactive role in preventing suicide on the tracks.
Two volunteers from "Palo Alto Track Watch” asked the board to slow its trains through sections of the city where a number of high school students have committed suicide on the tracks in the past year. The group is hoping to set up a system with Caltrain to notify an engineer if someone is suspected of wanting to kill themselves by a train. Currently, volunteers who monitor the tracks for troubled teens have no immediate way of contacting Caltrain to warn the engineer.
The transit agency suffered four fatalities on the tracks in December alone.
In regards to high-speed rail, Peninsula Rail Corridor’s Bob Doty announced a new public input strategy at yesterday’s meeting called the "stakeholder toolkit” that will allow online users to weigh in on how the new system will run through their communities.
He also announced that the alternatives analysis for the San Jose-to-San Francisco stretch of the track will be out in March.
"People keep saying there is a plan in place already that we are just not telling them. That is simply not true,” Doty said.
The federal government awarded the state $2.25 billion in stimulus money last week, with much of it being earmarked for the Peninsula but the Department of Transportation has yet to release details on where the money will go, Doty said.
Part of the money will go toward electrifying the tracks high-speed trains will share with Caltrain.
The joint powers board held a closed session after its regular meeting to negotiate price and terms of purchase property for work planned for San Bruno grade separations.
The Welch Family Partnership, Usman and Fatima Shaikh, Federick J. Firpo Trust, Lester and Rhoda Kaplan, Paul and Rita Kaplan, Artichoke Joe’s and the city and county of San Francisco are all currently negotiating either lease agreements or purchase prices for property Caltrain wants to use during construction along San Bruno, Angus and Huntington avenues.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.