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Roadshow: Budget woes make more trains unlikely, etc.

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  • 2/10 SJ Mercury
    Published Thursday, February 10, 2005, in the San Jose Mercury News More of anything unlikely in transit By Gary Richards Q: I ve heard rumors that Caltrain
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 10, 2005
      Published Thursday, February 10, 2005, in the San Jose Mercury News

      More of anything unlikely in transit

      By Gary Richards

      Q: I've heard rumors that Caltrain may add more bullet trains. What
      is the status of this?

      Amy Dalton
      San Francisco

      A: I wouldn't bank on it. These express trains are very popular,
      shaving 30 minutes off the San Jose-to-San Francisco trip. But the
      San Mateo County Transit District, which operates the Peninsula
      commuter trains, is dealing with serious money issues, like every
      transit agency in the region. Consider:

      Caltrain may cut its schedule and raise fares even though ridership
      has skyrocketed. San Francisco's Municipal system faces a $55 million
      deficit, and may raise fares and cut service. The Bay Area Rapid
      Transit District predicts a $51 million deficit this year and
      forecasts deficits each year for perhaps a decade. Sacramento's
      transit agency may raise fares 15 percent. AC Transit had to sell
      buses last year to meet its budget. The Altamont Commuter Express
      trains face a $1.2 million budget shortfall. Ironically, the one
      local agency that has balanced its budget is the Valley Transportation
      Authority, trimming $70 million annually by raising fares and cutting
      service three times since 2002. Said outgoing General Manager Pete
      Cipolla of the agency's cost-cutting moves: "We were ahead of the
      curve on this one."

      Q: On westbound Central Expressway in Mountain View where the
      light-rail tracks cross, they have crossing gates with railroad-type
      red lights and traditional traffic signals that turn from green to red
      when a trolley approaches. These signals help reinforce the idea of
      stopping. The problem comes after the trolley has passed and the
      crossing gates go up. Sometimes the signals don't turn green until
      several seconds after the other red lights have gone out. Some
      drivers wait for the green light, while others proceed as soon as
      the gates are up and the red warning lights are out, even though the
      signals are still showing red. What's the law here? And can the
      lights be synchronized better?

      Tom Digby

      A: Conditions ought to improve. The county originally timed the
      signals to work with the VTA's "crash gate" -- a device to prevent
      autos from colliding with trolleys. The crash gate was slow to lift
      up, and that was the reason for the longer delay for the green light.
      The transit agency will dismantle the gate and just use the typical
      railroad crossing gates, which seem more reliable. The green signal
      is now synchronized to work in conjunction with the smaller railroad
      crossing gates.

      Q: I drive Interstate 280 from Belmont to Santa Clara every morning.
      Along the way, I see several large white birds along the freeway, just
      standing around. I assume they're not waiting for a ride, so what
      attracts them to the side of the freeway? Tasty bugs? Sweeping
      vistas? Carbon monoxide fumes?

      Michelle Perata
      Santa Clara

      A: This from the Roadshow faithful: The long-necked white birds are
      either egrets or herons, usually seen near wetlands and lagoons,
      favorite feeding spots. They frequent Highway 237 as well, are able
      to fly and seem to get out of freeway medians without difficulty.

      Q: How much money was spent on the new equipment and cameras to
      automate the signals on Lawrence Expressway? Recent changes have
      increased my commute time by more than 10 minutes. A chimpanzee could
      time the lights better than the people currently doing the job.

      Nelson Deane

      A: Masoud-the-Traffic-Man has good news. County engineers found a
      problem with the detector loops and made a fix this week. Traffic
      seems to be flowing better, but they will monitor the situation during
      the next few days.

      Contact Gary Richards at mrroadshow@... or (408) 920-5335.
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