Caltrain Electric Train Car Recommendations

No bathrooms on Caltrain? That’s the recommendation of Caltrain’s staff as they prepare to issue the official Request for Proposals to supply the new electric train cars which are slated to go into service in 2020 (or more likely 2021).

By eliminating bathrooms, Caltrain estimates it can add an additional 32 seats, or room for 64 standees, to each train and save on both capital and ongoing maintenance costs.

In addition, and despite the fact that the use of bikes has been growing faster than overall ridership (which has increased nearly 150 percent over the past decade), staff is recommending that the electric train cars maintain the current capacity ratio of one bike per every nine seats.

The Bicycle Coalition is asking for an increase in on-board bike capacity to one bike per every six seats.  Caltrain staff is countering with a recommendation for $3 million in funding for wayside bike facilities to increase secure off-board bike storage at stations.

The final specs and RFP for Caltrain’s electric cars are scheduled to be finalized and released by the end of July.  A delay in issuing the RFP could further delay the roll out of Caltrain’s electrification.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by The Silent Majority

    Is it fair that a biker pays the same fare as a normal commuter but takes up more room on the train? When the trains are standing room only, I do not think it is.

    • Posted by Freeloader

      Is it fair that non-riders who take up no space pay a subsidy (taxes) for “normal” commuters?

      I think it is.

    • Posted by Amewsed

      Bikes should incur a surcharge, much like a checked bag on an airline. The extra revenue should go towards maintenance of bike facilities.

    • Posted by folderpete

      Is it fair that valuable real estate is reserved for automobiles right next to train stations when that land could be developed for high-priced condos to help subsidize train expenses?

      And the maybe we could look at the subsidy provided those who take the bus to the station. It becomes obvious that anyone who doesn’t work or live within walking distance is a drag on the system.

      With the possibility of Instant Inventory, perhaps those who ‘book late’ could be afforded a Standing Room Only discount!

      • Posted by Anon

        The arguments of the bike crowd are getting creepy. Are you being serious Folderpete (aka you sure sound a LOT like NoeValleyJim?) A 500 million dollar bike lane on the west span of the Bay Bridge but no desire to pay a toll to use it. Free bike storage on trains, but we are not able to charge for it. Why does a discussion about bike storage on trains turn into a discussion about parking? Because for the extremist in the bike crowd, it is not about transit, safety or mobility, but it is all about a fetish against anything that has a motor. (They hate motorcycles just as much, I know from experience!)

        • Posted by eh

          That sure is a raw nerve you got there

        • Posted by rodz

          The weird irrational anti-bike tirades are kind of pathetic. Why do you feel threatened by someone who’s freeing up traffic by keeping less cars on the road, as well as subsidizing all drivers on the road (cyclists and pedestrians pay local taxes in CA which is what pays for the majority of road and highway infastructure and maintenance). If you are indeed so serious about people paying their fare share, next time you drive by a cyclist or a pedestrian make sure you throw some cash at them in exchange for them subsidizing your lifestyle.

        • Posted by NoeValleyJim

          What’s creepy is your peculiar obsession with me.

    • Posted by BobN

      Uh… we have a policy of subsidizing and encouraging bike usage to cut down on pollution and all the costs related to automobile infrastructure.

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      bike users should pay a higher fee if they take more space. it puts a burden on other passengers.

      if the bike share centers are next to the train, then people can use those instead of their own bikes

      • Posted by Giuliani

        And instead of allowing parking in the downtown areas people can use carshare or taxi’s instead of their own cars. Otherwise, “it puts a burden on other” people.

        • Posted by anon

          +1

        • Posted by Squanto McButterpants

          But people pay for those parking spaces, while bike riders don’t pay for the extra space they use on the train.

          • Posted by Jake

            about half of the people that commute by car to SF CBD do not pay for parking, based on a study done by UCB for the Bay Bridge.

          • Posted by Alai

            The amount people pay for parking at Bart stations in no way justifies Bart’s investment in land/construction of parking facilities.

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      When they reach destination, they will not need to take a bus or a cab or get a ride from a friend, which means they will not get in your way, and they will not pollute the air that you are breathing. Also the road that you are paying with your taxes will see less wear, we will not need to secure more oil resources for them, and they will most likely live healthier lives, lowering or deferring major health expenses that you would have to pay indirectly either through government subsidies or insurance premium.

    • Posted by RobBob

      Bikes should pay a surcharge in order to disincentivize bringing bikes onboard for people who could otherwise travel without them, at least during peak times. As it is people can bring on bikes even if it is only a one or two block walk. It would be better if this space could instead be used by people who need to bring a bike due to a longer commutes. It would increase the total transit carrying capacity of the system. It should be revenue neutral, a decrease in the standard fare coupled with a surcharge for bikes.

    • Posted by Bill Lyons

      said the inactive fatty…

      • Posted by Bill Lyons

        Correction: My comment “Said the inactive fatty” was aimed not at “RobBob” but more toward “The Silent Majoriy” and the rest of his fellow 300 lbs, chip eating, seat-hoggers who seem to take a dislike towards people who can sit in only one seat and don’t wheeze loudly as they are shoving more food down their uniformly cavernous maws.

  2. Posted by lancette

    No bathrooms on the trains are OK as long as Caltrain builds bathrooms at every station.

    • Posted by BobN

      Yeah, cuz people taking an hour-long commute want to get off to pee and, thus, add at least half an hour to their commute…

      • Posted by Alai

        Should we add bathrooms to Bart then?

        • Posted by eh

          Bart is faster and runs more often and always stops at every stop. Be serious.

          • Posted by zig

            BART is not really faster than the bullets. What does stopping at ever stop have to do with anything?

        • Posted by BobN

          First of all, some BART stations have bathrooms.

          But more importantly, if you hop off BART to go to the restroom, your typical wait for the next train is only a few minutes (after relieving yourself).

        • Posted by Squanto McButterpants

          Don’t be silly. Just use the floor like everyone else.

  3. Posted by Oh Dear

    I smell a potty war!

  4. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    piss-poor decision making

  5. Posted by Charlie

    I remember the lavs in the old cars, back when it was SP. Everything went straight down on to the tracks. There was a sign about not using the “toilet” while at a station. Maybe CalTrain should just go back to that.

  6. Posted by Amewsed

    How long is the average Caltrain ride for passengers? Less than 2 hours? Do the private transport buses have bathrooms? Bart and Muni do not have onboard bathrooms, and I rarely see passengers using the bathrooms at the stations. Shift the pre-board morning coffee drinks to coffee at destination.

    I wonder if airlines would do the same thing for short haul flights to add a few more seats? Or at least charge economy class passengers for using the bathrooms in business/upper class.

    • Posted by Dan

      That might be because BART and MUNI stations haven’t had their bathrooms open to the public for almost 15 years.

  7. Posted by Haighter

    How about instead of bringing bikes on trains, we improve peninsula land use regulations so that commuters are actually close to their offices when they get off the train?

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      it’s always an “instead” when it comes to bikes. Because cycling tries and needs to grow and when you grow you have to step on some toes.

      How about we use “instead of funding motorized transportation for commuters”. You would free up 10s of Billions, instead of the mere few Mils that cycling is trying to get.

  8. Posted by mdg399

    Let riders lash their bikes to the outside of the trains A LA India.

    as for toilets….Let them have a porthole in each car and water the plants on the side of the tracks.

    • Posted by Amewsed

      I am riding on the roof of the train and bringing my live chickens onboard. Free.

      • Posted by mdg399

        don’t forget your goats

        • Posted by Amewsed

          Well if I do that, I’ll have to wear my ragged clothes and go barefoot because I don’t want to soil my nice clothes and shoes. Might as well bring my big bags of stuff then…

      • Posted by san FronziScheme

        Someone needs to be familiarized with the concept of “electrification” 😉

    • Posted by san FronziScheme

      What’s telling is that the only cases where I have seen people making fun of cyclists were third world countries where a motorized vehicle is still a sign of wealth. And then there are San Francisco old coots who have everything to be happy but were born to whine.

  9. Posted by intheknow

    Re: No bathrooms. Hallelujah! Is there a bathroom on BART? Of course not. Many people’s Muni bus rides are as long as most Caltrain rides. These are not long-haul overnight trains people. It’s great that they get additional capacity by eliminating bathrooms. But the actual biggest win in this regard is probably not apparent and Caltrain would not discuss it: eliminating bathrooms eliminates a good bit of the train servicing/cleaning that they do at each end of each train run, which means they can turn trains around faster and run more service. This servicing is one of the reasons Caltrain has claimed they need 4th/King as overflow for Transbay and that they need a full railyard in downtown SF — talk about the potty wagging the train.

    • Posted by BobN

      Any urban station needs a train yard. We’re fools to build a four-platform “train station”. And it has almost nothing to do with cleaning the bathrooms.

      • Posted by Suburbsarekillingus

        BART manages daily to carry 7.5X the number of passengers as Caltrain – delivering nearly 300K of them to/from Market Street – without having a train yard in downtown San Francisco. And it manages to turn trains around every 4 minutes during the peak hours, on a two-track system. Perhaps Caltrain should consider running the trains, rather than parking them in some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

        • Posted by Sierrajeff

          Thanks, glad you know more than 200 years of railroad management. FWIW, Bart happens to run THROUGH the city, so need not have a yard downtown. Bart does have yards at terminus locations and other locations.

        • Posted by frog

          But to do that, SF can’t be the terminus of the train system. Which is great. But where should the Caltrain tracks go on to? We are dealing with the transportation infrastructure designed over the last hundred years.

        • Posted by BobN

          Regional urban center train stations are more than just places to hop on and hop off as fast as you possibly can. They’re places that accumulate riders from local stations and intercity transfer trains. Every small city in Europe has a train station bigger than the one we’ve got planned. Actual cities have stations with dozens of tracks.

          • Posted by Amewsed

            Very true. Ever see train stations in Brussels or Amsterdam? Huge. Efficient. Well-managed. Public transport systems in Hong Kong (along with a multitude of trains linking to mainland China) are excellent as well carrying hoardes of people on a daily basis. We are mere country bumpkins on the global stage.

          • Posted by Alai

            This may be true, but it’s also the result of over a century of continuous development. If they were building a new station from scratch, I don’t think it’s clear that they would build them as large as the existing ones they’ve inherited from earlier generations.

          • Posted by Anon

            Alai, the rest of the world including Europe is building new stations “from scratch” and they are far better planned than our fiascos. We are building a regional transit hub without BART or MUNI interface, and unbiased news outlets say the earliest one can expect CALTRAIN to be operating at Transbay is 2030.

            Meanwhile in Southern California they are building stations “from scratch”. I was just reading about the new rail/transit hub station in Santa Ana/Anaheim. The architecture of that station is far more striking than our Transbay, and believe it or not, it was constructed to accommodate future HSR trains, and is a true regional hub. On opening day it had operating rail platforms, AND is ready to accommodate HSR! Go figure. Union Station in Los Angeles is forecast to have 4 subway lines, over 8 Caltrain style lines, and future HSR all connecting within the station. (It already has the most of the rail lines and two of the subway platforms operating and completed)

        • Posted by BAWE

          Railroad operating regulations make 4 minute turnarounds functionally impossible. But the general gist of your comment is not incorrect

    • Posted by francis

      Trains will have bathrooms whether they’re built or not. If they’re not built, well, expect the area at the end of the cars to smell bad.

  10. Posted by Gil

    Ha! Love the title.

    BART, MUNI, AC Transit, and any other regional transit service in the Bay Area I can think of doesn’t have bathrooms, so why should CalTrain? It’s not like Amtrak where you’re traveling cross country. Bay Areans could learn more discipline and hold it for 45 mins.

  11. Posted by TransitNerd

    If Caltrain adds bathrooms to the new trainset, those bathrooms will have to be ADA accessible (5’X5″). Further, the path of travel to the bathrooms will need to be ADA accessible – from the platforms at each station, to any lifts in each car that has a bathroom. This combination of factors will slow boarding times, train turnaround times, and reduce seating/standing capacity in a system that is bursting at the seams.The staff recommendation (no bathrooms) is the right thing to do. Bathrooms can be addressed at stations, on a case by case basis.

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      And here is the answer. ADA has set the bar way too high. Since it isn’t possible to wheelchair from car-to-car (for arcane reasons not elaborated here) you have to put a bathroom in every car. It is silly to have 6 large ADA accessible bathrooms down the track on every short haul train.

      I’m a solid supporter of ADA but this is one of those unintended consequences. Either Caltrain has to implement total overkill restrooms or nothing at all. So we get nothing.

      It reminds me of a story where citizens were required to wear artificial handicaps to be equal with the disabled.

      • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

        “Harrison Bergeron” – that’s not really what it was about . . .

        • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

          Yes, thanks for the memory jog.

  12. Posted by Michael

    Maybe not a big deal during commute hours but no bathroom service on the trains would be a complete mess before and after Giants/Warriors/49ers games.

    • Posted by SanMateoNotSoSpecial

      Far more people take BART to Giants/Warriors/49ers games without necessitating bathrooms on BART.

      • Posted by BobN

        And you can sniff around any BART station to see how well that works.

    • Posted by Amewsed

      Aren’t there restrooms at the stadium and ballpark? Go there. You’ve paid for it with the costs of your seat at the game.

  13. Posted by c_q

    I would agree that there is not as much need for more bike capacity because since bay area bike share is expected to increase the number of their stations greatly in SF, so there should be less need for people to drag their bike just to go the last mile or two to their destination from 4th/king (also the DTX needed to extend caltrain to transbay terminal is another benefit, but not happening soon, but then neither are the new train cars). And if you only need the bike to get to your local caltrain station to start your ride, there really should be more lockers so you don’t have to drag it around.

    As for restrooms on the trains – if you were going long-distance (say, to gilroy) i could see needing them for that, that’s a pretty long ride (about 2.5 hours). But IF caltrain was electrified all the way to gilroy then probably this gets to under 2 hours – which I think is the ‘standard’ commute length to not have restrooms. Assuming you have them in the stations at least – they will have them in the new transbay terminal, right? !

    • Posted by Amewsed

      Excellent ideas. Caltrain should be paying us to come up with these simple cost-effective solutions. Where is my tax refund when we eliminate and automate these useless public transport officials?

      Definitely put restrooms in stations. Require payment to use them to fund the nice upkeep of the facilities. It will cut down on public use. A lot of restrooms in Europe (public and otherwise) are staffed with attendants who charge 50 c to $1 for each use. Many of them are spotless and is a place you want to linger…unlike some places here where it is “breathe through your mouth and close your eyes.”

    • Posted by Alai

      Bikes are probably more useful for people traveling to the peninsula, where they have to make connections of a couple miles. Still, it’s probably something that’s better dealt with by improving land use around stations, and local transit.

      • Posted by frog

        Bike locker space is (should be) cheap. Bike space on trains is expensive. It should make sense for commuters to just have a bike in a locker at either end and to switch between them. Also it would eliminate bike loading times. It’s the transportation equivalent of Newton balls. Subsidizing bike lockers in parking lots would be more efficient than subsidizing bikes on trains.

        If someone must take a bike on a train, charge them 50% more during peak times.

  14. Posted by Pablo

    What is it with the Bay Area,public bathrooms, and transit? Most of BART does not have bathrooms. Large parts of SF routinely smell like poop and pee. Other major cities in America, Europe, and Japan do not have this problem….

    • Posted by HowmanyCalTrainBoardMembersTakeTheTrain?

      Europe does not have ADA. Europe has a long-established culture of pay toilets. Europe does not require level boarding of certain kinds of trains. It is ridiculous to put minimum 25 square foot bathrooms on trains that are at capacity.

    • Posted by zig

      People in Japan act like they are all cousins in a homogenous society. They don’t even lock their bikes at train stations.

  15. Posted by Jake

    Each bike takes as much space as a passenger seat and last year about 1 in 150 people with bikes were bumped, according to the Caltrain presentation. It would seem as though passengers that board with a bike use twice the carrying capacity as other passengers for which they risk odds of less than 1% of being denied boarding. Sweet deal.

  16. Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

    A 1-1.5 hour commute with no toilet? What happens when the trains are stuck someplace due to a suicide on the tracks. That can take hours to resolve.

    • Posted by zig

      BART from Baypoint to SFO is well over a hour

    • Posted by Amewsed

      Suicides can happen anywhere (BART, MUNI, Caltrains, bridges) and will tie up commutes. No one is concerned about their bladders when calamity strikes. How often do you remember to drink fluids, stand and walk around every hour or so when you are glued to the iphone, surfing the net, or in the middle of an important project?

      This is all about psychology. People don’t normally think it is an issue until there is a big fuss. Creating mountains out of molehills.

  17. Posted by Hurryup

    The average Caltrain trip today is under 28 miles and under 40 minutes. Once Caltrain provides service more frequently than once an hour, it will become more like BART.

  18. Posted by san FronziScheme

    4 pints, 56 minutes. That’s not gonna end well.

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      alcohol should be banned from the train

    • Posted by Can't Think of Cool Name

      @san, that’s a growler downed within an hour. Somebody who does that deserves what happens to them. Of course, others may suffer…

  19. Posted by Mark F.

    If you have to wait an hour at a station and have an hour and a half train ride, no bathrooms could be an issue. I don’t like using them , but they have been good to have at times.

  20. Posted by Herk Derkerson

    I can’t believe the train management is so idiotic. I can believe that internet commenters are so immature.

    People go to the bathroom. If you put people somewhere, you need to provide them. The bay area is covered with piss and sh!t because of a simple [refusal] to acknowledge human body functions.

    • Posted by anon

      Just spent some time in Scandinavia, and commuter trains there with distances equivalent to Caltrain never have bathrooms. Doesn’t seem to cause a problem, since people figure it out and go to the bathroom before getting on board. Geez.

  21. Posted by Mark F.

    Silicon Valley people don’t have the usual bodily functions, I suppose.

  22. Posted by Jim

    They will have vending machines onboard with Depends now.

  23. Posted by Pablito

    I can not believe that people would argue against basic public sanitation.

    Fact – the average person makes a pound of poop and 2 quarts of pee a day. Caltrain has 60,000 riders a day. Figure only a third of them do their business while riding – that’s 10 TONS of poop and 10,000 Gallons of piss a day. A day. Each and every day. Where it is supposed to go? On SOMA sidewalks?

    SF is now the 2nd densest urban area in the country. We should either adjust our public bathroom policy to reflect this or not complain when we have to step over the bums dying of cholera on the way to our shiny new basketball stadium.

    • Posted by anon

      “Only a third” decide to use the bathroom while riding? Why in the world would that many people decide to go during the worst possible time? Maybe, maybe, 3% of riders currently use the bathrooms.

      • Posted by Pablo

        okay, lets say 3%. That is still 1,800 pounds of Poop and 900 Gallons of Piss per day.

        What SOMA doorstep do you want it deposited on?

        Large parts of SOMA already smell bad even though the City comes out twice a week with street sweeping and Lysol spraying power washer trucks.

        • Posted by anon

          Why in the world would you assume that the average Caltrain rider would piss in SOMA? Average Caltrain riders are well above the median income for the area, and would likely, you know, hold it until they can walk to one of the thousands of bathrooms in SOMA. You haven’t given any reason why you seem to think that Caltrain riders would be prone to peeing on the street if not for bathrooms on the trains.

        • Posted by Jake

          Pabo, Caltrain has about 14k riders/weekday to SoMa, not 60k. I’d be more concerned about the post-game needs of Giants fans staggering through SoMa and the neighborhood dogs than the Caltrain riders who should have used the facilities at the 4th St station.

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            Yes, this probably the closest that Caltrain riders come to despoiling the streets. And it would be liquid in nature.

        • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

          Heh, yeah. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of “street poopers” vs. Caltrain riders the overlap would be really really small. There would be a larger overlap between juggling unicyclers and Caltrain riders.

        • Posted by R

          So your theory is that 3% of Caltrans riders need to do their entire days worth of pooping and pissing during their 45 minute commute? That would be very odd.

  24. Posted by Mark F.

    I bet all the train stations is Scandinavia have bathrooms. I don’t see an absolute need for them on the trains, but the stations should have them at least.

    • Posted by anon

      You’d be very wrong then. Many of the train “stations” on commuter lines are simple platforms with nothing but ticket vending machines.

  25. Posted by Mark F.

    Try finding a bathroom open at or around the Santa Clara Station at 9 pm.

    • Posted by anon

      Go before you head to the station? We’re going to base the need for all trains to all have bathrooms because there’s one station with limited service that doesn’t have bathrooms close by very late at night? That seems crazy.

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