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Caltrain riders get apology for delays, then another breakdown

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  • 7/30 SMCo. Times
    Published Friday, July 30, 2010, by the San Mateo County Times Caltrain riders get apology for delays, then another breakdown By Mike Rosenberg San Mateo
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2010
      Published Friday, July 30, 2010, by the San Mateo County Times

      Caltrain riders get apology for delays, then another breakdown

      By Mike Rosenberg
      San Mateo County Times

      Caltrain just can't get its timing right.

      On Friday morning, as riders read an apology note from the transit agency meant to soothe frustrations about Thursday's snarled commute, yet another train broke down, and passengers were again left waiting.

      The sequence began Thursday morning, when riders were delayed up to an hour after a pair of trains broke down within two hours of one another in Belmont and San Mateo. The schedule finally got back on track for the afternoon commute, only to veer off course again after another train stopped working at 5 p.m. in Santa Clara.

      Then, early Friday morning, a fourth train went out of service in Sunnyvale, slowing commuters for more than three hours.

      "It's just an unfortunate coincidence," Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said, noting the trains each suffered from different mechanical problems.

      Caltrain has cut its spending as it tries to survive a fiscal emergency, but that does not mean its trains have been breaking down more often. This week's problems appear to be a fluke.

      For the year ending in June, trains arrived at stations on time 94.2 percent of the time, down slightly from a rate of 95.1 percent during the previous year. Caltrain's goal is to stay on schedule 95 percent of the time, but just one mechanical problem or death on the railroad can block one of the two tracks and ignite a cascade of delays that often lasts hours.

      The note left on train seats Friday explained

      the previous day's delays and told riders "we will work diligently on preventing such problems and meeting your expectations for on-time service."
      On Twitter — where riders have taken to posting real-time delay information because Caltrain does not announce such information at stations — many of the railroad's 37,000 daily riders did not appreciate the irony of the apology's timing. One rider complained that a mountain biker had passed her train, while another compared the trains falling apart to the Jenga board game.

      "Thanks, but 'sorry' doesn't get me to work any faster," wrote Caltrain user Hilary Laurie. "Today's apology better come with cookies."

      Rider Matt Barto tweeted: "I'd rather be told how services will be improved and given a refund for my day of commuting than handed an apology letter from Caltrain."

      This was not the first time Caltrain has had unfortunate timing in sending out public relations material.

      In September, the agency announced a news conference to celebrate the completion of safety upgrades at several street crossings in San Mateo. Within minutes of the announcement, a Caltrain struck and killed a man carrying parrots at one of the crossings.

      Mike Rosenberg covers San Mateo, Burlingame, Belmont and transportation. Contact him at 650-348-4324.

      [BATN: See also:

      Caltrain suffers train breakdown & cancellation for 2nd day in row

      Caltrain won't provide free rides after massive morning delays

      Triple train breakdown snarls Caltrain morning commute today
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