Published Friday, December 5, 2003, in the San Mateo County Times
Three-car shuttle is Bart ghost train
By John Horgan
Just call it the BART "Ghost Train." That would be the handy three-car
shuttle that goes back and forth from San Francisco International
Airport to Millbrae. Fairly strong anecdotal evidence suggests that
this new rail option, which opened for business last summer along with
a BART extension south of Colma, is being used infrequently at
And that may be overly optimistic.
We have had occasion to utilize the setup eight times in the past two
months and only twice was anyone else along for the ride. In all, a
grand total of seven people joined your faithful scribbler on the
short hop. BART/Caltrain authorities have performed an early analysis
of ridership along the BART extension to Millbrae.
Results have indicated that customer projections haven't come close to
being realized on that line. An initial survey of the shuttle's
passenger count has shown that only 350 riders are using the service
Since there are a total of 120 five-minute trips per weekday (60 round
trips), that works out to about three customers per train, or one
person per car. Talk about individual attention. A private limousine
120 should be so accommodating. [BATN notes that a private limousine
would be FAR less expensive.]
Jayme Maltbie Kunz, a Caltrain spokeswoman, said complete shuttle data
won't be available for a while. One reason for that, she noted, is
that the airport shuttle and Caltrain don't share a common platform at
the Millbrae station. That makes it harder to glean precise
The whole rationale behind having the SFO-Millbrae connection is to
provide easy rail access to and from the airport for those who travel
via Caltrain. [BATN: An alternate explanation is that the rationale
of going beyond advertised airport terminus goal was to provide an
extra $500 million or so in construction pork.] The BART shuttle has
replaced a Caltrain/bus hookup in Millbrae. Currently, the
SFO-Millbrae train operates to and fro every 20 minutes.
Ridership hasn't been helped because airport customers can't use
Caltrain on weekends due to construction work. Caltrain's operations
are expected to resume on weekends next spring. [BATN notes that
Caltrain weekend ridership to the airport will, very optimistically,
add another couple hundred passengers per week.]
Dogged to a fault on a Friday, John Horgan can be reached by telephone
at 348-4334 and by fax at 348-4446.
[BATN notes that the tracks for the "Q-line" (the Quentin Kopp
Memorial Shuttle) were built at a cost of several hundred million
dollars, that the cost to a rider to travel one stop from Millbrae to
SFO is $1.50 and that BART's average operating cost per train-hour is
over $1000. BATN invites readers to do the fiscal arithmetic at 350
riders per day -- or even at 3500 riders per day.
The Q-line shuttles are carefully timed not to meet any Caltrain
service or connect with any of the other two $1000-per-hour BART
services on the extension.
Before the opening of the MTC-championed BART extension,
shuttle service between Millbrae Caltrain station was provided by
shuttle vans which met each and every Caltrain run, at a capital cost
of $0 (borne by the contractor), a rider cost of $0, and an hourly
operating cost of under $100.
BATN is unable to understand how anybody even remotely connected with
the $1.7+ billion BART expansion fiasco is able to hold any salaried
position in ANY capacity, or to hold any elected office, or to stay
out of jail.]