CALTRAIN, Fatalities, Delays and The Sadness Of It All

by on February 24, 2015

in consumer

Caltrain Hits Car in Menlo Park by B Simmons-DSC09912, passengers left stranded for hours

Today (2/23/15) was one of those terrible days that riders find themselves staring at multi-hour delays, and to be honest, one of those trying times being a consumer of Caltrain where passengers are left for hours to stew in their own frustrations.

In Menlo Park a woman, according to what eye witnesses told me, was allegedly in a rush. She was seen allegedly racing along Alma street heading towards Ravenswood, to turn right (Westerly) to get across the tracks before the Caltrain commuter train caused the gates to come down.

As she turned the corner to cross the tracks, the same witnesses told me she allegedly came precariously close to a youngster in the crosswalk while rushing to beat the train. But then the driver found herself stuck behind cars that were stopped. The back end of the car was struck by the express train that was passing through the Menlo Park station, sending it forty feet across the intersection, striking the guard rail construction.

Sadly, she later died at the hospital. So much for being in a rush.

To be honest, I work near that intersection and it is a crazy place to be a pedestrian. Too many times I’ve seen vehicles dash to beat the gates or even split a crowd of pedestrians to get where they’re going. I am surprised this does not happen more often, but there it is.

It’s a shame and I feel bad for this driver’s family.

Then there is that three to four-hour delay by Caltrain for its passengers. A delay that saw not one single bus bridge. A delay that left people wondering, with nothing but apologies and tweets.

Sure, it was a devestating event that occured. But to be honest, myself and my fellow train passengers were getting pretty frustrated.

Here are a few interesting perceptions when things go wrong with the daily transit commute:

It seems every time there’s an incident, the northbound trains get back on track and rolling and the southbound trains are just an incidental triviality that happens to get going when convenient.

Case in point, we watched SIX northbound trains pass through Menlo Park before we ever saw a single southbound train.

Sure, the broken train was on our set of tracks. But with all the options to change tracks around the vicinity, why one or two single track trains did not come by and pick up the southbound passengers is beyond myself and the many southbound passengers that ended up waiting to the point of getting home three hours late on this fine evening.

Or hey, why leave us waiting so long? Why not get a bus bridge going. CALTRAIN KNOWS things were not going to get going any time soon.

On the bright side, the news TV cameras were there and talking to the people standing around. We might have gotten our word out that way instead, while waiting for hours.

The funny thing is that the perception of passengers is that the northbound trains and their San Francisco bound passengers are the golden step-children of Caltrain who get priority over the meager southbound passengers.

Is that true? I can’t imagine that it is, but it sure feels like that when the logistics seem to always work in their favor. It was bad enough that a few fellow passengers were talking about driving again. (But we know how that will probably pan out). And knowing that passengers are over a barrel in their transit options, there is no solid motivation for Caltrain to worry about changing things. Who is their competitor?

Just saying… perceptions can suck. Three hour delays where all consumers get are updates via Twitter but no bus bridges suck even more.

The bottom line is I feel sad for this woman’s family. Per all the eyewitnesses I spoke with, she was in a bit of a hurry. A hurry that did not pay out.

And having lived and worked near this particular intersection in Menlo Park for several years, I see this haste on a daily basis. I’ve watched mothers in minvans split the line of pedestrians by inches to get where they’re going. I’ve watched way too many people stomp the gas pedal from dozens of yards (quarter block or more) out when they see the lights on the crossing guard light up. I’ve watched pedestrians run across in front of trains. Hell, even today, while on the train coming to work I saw a car squeezed up next to the tracks on the wrong side of the gate.

Seriously. Why? The video below is a prime example of being in haste. (No one got hit)

When it comes to working your driving transit with trains, you should not try racing the train, the gates or the lights. Let it be. The one extra minute you end up waiting can parlay into a lifetime for you and your family. And to be honest, it is a mere 60 or maybe 90 seconds. In the scheme of things, that seems silly.

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