Friday, August 26, 2005

Bugs in the new Caltrain schedule

They seem to be working the bugs out of the new Caltrain schedule. For the first couple of weeks, most trains arrived late, particularly on the weekends. I usually ride the "express trains" because they stop at both of my stops, Sunnyvale and 22nd St. Although the train makes very few stops north of San Carlos, south of that city, it makes all regular weekday stops (no trains stop at Atherton on weekdays). Because of this mixed schedule, long and short distance commuters are riding on the same train for the first part of my northbound commute.

The long distance commuters, as a general rule, tend to be very efficient about putting their bicycles on the racks on the bike car. If we're all going to the same place (e.g. 22nd St.), we put our bikes on the same rack. We all have the proper tags indicating what stop we're going to.

Probably because they don't spend much time on the train, some of the short distance commuters do not observe the same bicycle etiquette that the long distance commuters are accustomed to. Many of them don't have tags on their bikes. They do not organize their bikes in a way that makes it easy for commuters at later stops to board. Of course, some short distance commuters are very thoughtful and some long distance commuters are clueless. But in general, the longer the commute, the more thought is given to the organized placement of bicycles.

I wonder if there is an optimal placement for each bike based on boarding location and destination.

Because of this chaotic environment, the trains are often late, cyclists are often denied boarding on commuter trains, and the conductors sometimes get into arguments with passengers. I hear the complaint, "Five bikes to a rack!" quite often lately. Because I board at Sunnyvale and few cyclists are on the train that far south, I have not been bumped yet. I expect things will get a little less chaotic as the weather gets cooler and wetter.


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