Caltrain has announced its new schedule for “Baby Bullet” and weekend service, effective June 5th. The schedule has been the result of some debate and concern among riders, especially the weekend service, which has been absent for nearly two years now. There were several proposed schedules that differed in both how many trains would run, and where they would stop. The final schedule provides service to each station hourly, but only to San Jose Diridon, instead of proceeding to the Tamien station as do the weekday trains. Instead, Caltrain will be running a free shuttle bus between the two stations throughout Saturday and Sunday, to provide service to the Tamien station.
I’m not quite sure I understand: How is it that they cannot provide train service one additional stop, but do have the ability to run a shuttle? Assuming the number of passengers is low, a shuttle bus is almost certainly cheaper to run than a full five-car passenger train, but the train is running anyway; it would just be one more stop. Further, there may be folks who will choose not to take Caltrain from Tamien, due to the lowered convenience and extra hassle of the shuttle. Given that Tamien links to the VTA light rail and bus systems in San Jose, even if the shuttle is slightly cheaper than the train, it might well represent a not insignificant loss in fare revenue.
The only explanation I can come up with is that the weekend schedule as it currently stands requires them to only have a certain number of trains running at a time (four, if I count correctly), but that adding one more station stop to each run would require them to run more trains—five, maybe, or even six—to maintain the hourly schedule. In that case, I could see how a bus would be cheaper. But it doesn’t add up, math-wise: For example, the southbound 420 train arrives at Diridon at 8:36 AM, but the northbound 425 doesn’t leave until 9:00. Based on the weekday schedule, the round-trip from Diridon to Tamien and back should take only fifteen minutes, which the schedule would seem to allow for.
Color me confused.
One guess — perhaps the train operators have a contractually-mandated break that the schedule needs to take into account? Or it could be a fuel-efficiency thing — if you have a very limited number of passengers going to Tamien, it doesn’t make sense to run a whole train down there.