Follow Ross To Work Day #4 – Caltrain and The Office

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:

  1. Traveled about 116 miles
  2. Reached a top speed of about 80 MPH
  3. Averaged about 28MPH – including stops waiting for busses and trains to leave – across the entire trip
  4. Drank 3 cups of coffee and eaten 119 grams of carbohydrates
  5. Burned approximately 413 calories.
  6. Written 1.5 blog posts
  7. Napped about 15 minutes
  8. Read about 10 or 15 emails
  9. Come into contact with countless people
  10. Actually spoke to 5-10 folks
  11. Saw a hawk flying right next to the train window
  12. Dropped my phone under the train seat trying to get a picture of the hawk flying right next to the train window
  13. Stopped at zero gas stations or toll booths, and was stuck in my car for zero minutes waiting for traffic jams to clear
  14. 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

— FIN

Follow Ross To Work Day #4 – The Amtrak Leg

The Amtrak Bay Area Commuter Train (aka Amtrak Capitol Corridor) is actually a fairly comfortable service.  The run hourly or less between Sacramento and Oakland, with some of the trains heading east as far as Auburn, and south/west as far as San Jose.  Almost all of the cars have standard electric outlets to allow you to power your laptop and other electronics without fear of draining your battery.  That, coupled with the fairly spacious seats with either full tables or fold down trays makes working on the commute a very viable option.  In fact, the entire previous post was done in transit between Davis and Fairfield.

They also have a cafe car – or, more accurately, a snack bar.  Drinks and a couple of microwaved offerings make up the menu.  And yea – alchoholic beverages are available.  The prices are a little on the steep side, but nothing compared to, say, a hot dog at a sports arena.  You’re always able to bring your own food along as well.

On this morning, the train left right on time – 7:00am.  I often get a kick out of watching the auto driving commuters on I-80 coming out of Sac heading towards Davis and teh Bay Area.  Usually I get to be all smug about the fact that I’m, not stuck in that traffic.  Today, however, traffic seemed pretty light.  [video clip]

I was finally able to catch some video [video clip] of the delta between Fairfield and Suisuin Bay.  Everytime I go through here I always imagine Lord of the Rings, and Gollum leading the Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes.  OK – guess I’m a geek…

Across the bridge near the Suisun naval reserve fleet, past petro refineries, past C&H sugar, Richmond and Berkeley and finally Emeryville.  From here, I transfer to a bus that takes me across the Bay Bridge [video clip] to the Caltrain station and 4th & King in San Francisco.  Time for another train.

Some mornings, however, I’ll traverse SF a little differently.  Depending on timing, weather and my general mood, I may actually take the bus and get off at either the Hyatt in the Financial District, or the Ferry Terminal.  From there, I’ll ride along the Embarcadero to Townsend street.  Makes for a nice, quick and generally enjoyable ride.

That’s it for Amtrak – and I board the Caltrain #236, leaving San Francisco heading south on the peninsula at 9:37am.  Last leg of public transit for the morning.

Follow Ross To Work Day #4 – Alarm Clock to Train

Those of you who have followed my twitter feed, Facebook, or read the (unfortunately now defunct) SacraFrisco Commuter blog will be familiar with Follow Ross to Work Days (FRTWD).  Here, I chronicle my normal commute from my home in Sacramento, CA to my place of employment in Palo Alto, CA.  For those of you already doing the jaw drop “oh my gawd” expression – hold on.  I don’t actually do this every single day.  It averages about 3 days a week.  I also don’t drive it – instead opting for a Bike-Train-Bus-Train-Bike combo.

Why is this FRTWD different or better than previous ones?

One word – technology.  A second word – Droid.  This time around, I’ll be including GPS maps and video along with the normal photo work.  As mentioned above, the most up-to-the-minute information and photos will be on my Twitter feed – which is also replicated to my Facebook status.  If you’re looking for more of a “digest” form than this blog is the place for you.  Here goes….

Alarm Clock sounds…

This morning was a 2-snooze-button morning, but I managed to make it out of the house even a little early. I knew the streets were wet from rains last night (but it wasn’t raining at the time) and that I’d loose some time as I juggled gadgets trying to capture as much content as possible for these posts.  The plan was to get a little video of the ride in, as well as map the route.

For the GPS stuff I’d actually decided to use two apps on the Droid.  One – CardioTrainer – is the one that I’ve been playing with to track my training rides.  I was planning to use this for the shorter segments (like the house to the train station).  It tracks cool information like calories burned, etc.  The second I’d just downloaded the night before – EveryTrail.  The plan was to use this to track the entire trip – from leaving my driveway to arriving at the office.

Well – I kinda blew it on the CardioTrainer portion.  I simply forgot to hit that uber-fancy “Start” button to make it actually record my trip.  Oh well.  EveryTrail is recording the overall trip, however.  It still remains to be seen if I’ll have an uploadable map to share when this is all done.

6:10am: So now we’re out the door and on the bike.  Things are going as normal for my commute.  The streets are pretty wet, but there is no rain falling.  I’ve got about 5 different variations on the trip to work, and I choose the easier one (as far as effort on the bike) to give myself ample time to play with the camera.  It also happens to pass through Land Park – which is where I plan my first video.  Unfortunately, before I get to the park the rain starts to fall.  In the interest preserving the Droid from electronics-unfriendly moisture – no video.

Not sure there is much else to really say about the ride in.  The rain got harder and I got wetter, but arrived at the train with ample time.  I skipped my normal Starbucks Espresso for the morning – more out of laziness than anything – and boarded the 7:00 am train at about 6:43.  Let the train ride begin!