Caltrain PacBell Park buses rolling nearly empty
- Published Tuesday, September 3, 2002, in the San Mateo Independent
Caltrain baseball buses rolling empty
PacBell Park service may be cut back due to low ridership
By Sara Zaske
SAN CARLOS -- While they love the train, Peninsula baseball fans do not
like the bus.
When Caltrain shut down on the weekends for the "Baby Bullet" track
construction, it rolled out the buses to pick up baseball fans who
normally crowded the trains. Yet only 500 people, one-fifth of the usual
2,500 baseball train riders, boarded the special "BB" bus service.
Consequently, some of the buses may have to be benched.
"We didn't get the ridership we thought we would. We anticipated 100
percent of baseball riders would translate into buses and. that just
didn't happen," said Jayme Maltbie, spokesperson for Caltrain.
As expected, the PacBell parking lots are more crowded, but PacBell
Transportation Manager Alfonso Felder attributes most of that to
construction closing nearby private lots instead of the lack of train
Caltrain will be shut down on the weekends for the next two years as
workers lay passing tracks for express train service, the so-called Baby
At the recommendation of its Citizens Advisory Committee, the Caltrain
board decided not to leave rail riders high and dry during the shutdown
and offered a bus bridge for regular and baseball rail riders on the
The RRX, the bus service for regular rail riders, starts in San Jose and
makes two stops, one at Palo Alto and one at San Mateo's Hillsdale station
on its way to San Francisco. The RRX buses see approximately 30 percent of
the normal weekend rail ridership. Caltrain, officials expected the low
RRX percentage. The low baseball numbers were somewhat of a surprise.
For years, SamTrans' regular bus service to 49er games at Candlestick has
seen a large ridership. For each game in the 2001 season, approximately
3,000 to 5,000 football fans boarded the bus.
The football bus service is more established than the new baseball weekend
bus service, explained Maltbie. Caltrain officials speculate that a number
of factors are contributing to the low baseball bus turnout, including
decreased baseball attendance in general because of the low economy.
There is also a stigma against taking the bus, because people think it
will be slow, which Maltbie said is not the case. "It is a lot faster than
people think because the bus service has limited stops. It picks you up
and takes you home. You will not be trapped on the bus for hours and
hours," she said.
On the weekends, Caltrain runs three separate "BB" routes, originating at
Hayward Park, Palo Alto and San Jose stations with limited stops. SamTrans
and Caltrain worked diligently to schedule the weekend service. Planners
actually drove the routes to make sure the buses would arrive on time.