9:37am I depart San Francisco on the second train of the morning. Caltrain has something of a slightly troubled history with velo commuters, generally surrounding bicycle capacity on their trains. Caltrain has specific, dedicated bicycle cars with a fixed number of spaces for bicycles. So, unless you have a folding bike (which can go on any of the train cars – not just the bike cars) you will potentially be denied entrance to the train if all of the available slots are full – known as “getting bumped” in the Caltrain rider vernacular.
In the past year Caltrain has done a lot to improve this situation. My commute home from Palo Alto on one of the Bullet trains is one of the busier train stops, and getting bumped used to be a regular occurrence for me. Looking back, however, it seems it has been a very very long time since I’ve had to wait for the next train.
They’ve increased their capacity in two ways. First, they started to remove seats to allow room for more bike racks. Each rack takes the space of about 4 people seats, and holds 4 bikes. In addition to adding racks in the bike cars, they’ve increased the number of trainsets rolling with two bike cars. That means that some of the trains can handle 80 bikes at one time.
Caltrain has a little more of a “Big city commuter train” than the Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains. There is not quite as much room in the seats, for one thing. Also, of the two types of cars only one style has any table top surfaces at all. Of the cars that do have tables, they are tiny in comparison to the Amtrak cars. Also, electrical outlets on the train cars are rare and seem to be intended for servicing the train more than providing power to riders power-hungry electronic gizmos.
All that being said, I’m not sure I’ll call the ride unpleasant – it just feels a little more like mass transit. City bus like almost.
Menlo Park Station
Caltrain travels up and down the pennisula in a basicly north/south line between San Francisco and San Jose – stitching together SF’s hipsters and the Silicon Valley’s techsters. Even with frequent stops, it is by far faster compared to driving, especially during peak traffic times.
Cool places passed include Tesla Motors – with their rows of electric powered, Lotus bodied sports cars.
Train pulling away from Palo Alto heading south. My last stop for the morning.
Finally, I jump off at Palo Alto. It is a short couple of blocks to the office where I work – and I walk in the door at about 10:37 or so. It has been about 4 hours and 15 minutes since I left my driveway. During that time I’ve:
- Traveled about 116 miles
- Reached a top speed of about 80 MPH
- Averaged about 28MPH – including stops waiting for busses and trains to leave – across the entire trip
- Drank 3 cups of coffee and eaten 119 grams of carbohydrates
- Burned approximately 413 calories.
- Written 1.5 blog posts
- Napped about 15 minutes
- Read about 10 or 15 emails
- Come into contact with countless people
- Actually spoke to 5-10 folks
- Saw a hawk flying right next to the train window
- Dropped my phone under the train seat trying to get a picture of the hawk flying right next to the train window
- Stopped at zero gas stations or toll booths, and was stuck in my car for zero minutes waiting for traffic jams to clear
- Felt very happy in the fact that, although my commute is up to 6 times longer than most, I’m contributing substantially less CO2 emissions than drivers.
There you have it. Thanks for following along with me on my trip to work. Unfortunately, the application I was hoping would allow me to post an exact map of my route isn’t allowing me to upload right now. At some point I’ll get that map and post it here online.
Until then – it is a busy day, and I’ve got work to do.
My desk at work