Change for the Sake of Change?

There’s been much recent talk of BART taking over Caltrain.

But what do transit riders and would-be riders think? What do they want? One can be pretty certain that their first choice would be for an efficient, well-integrated network of trains and buses that gets them where they want to go safely, quickly and reliably, regardless of whose logo appears on the sides of the trains and buses.

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Eliminating the Dumbarton Transit Gap


talkPeople say that the number one reason they don’t use public transit is because “it doesn’t get me where I want to go”. Opportunities to improve the currently disjointed and gap-filled Bay Area network of trains and buses abound. “Seamless Transit”, intended to address this problem, so far hasn’t proceeded beyond the talking stage. Here are some examples of what’s gone wrong and what could go right:

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SMART Starts Looking at Performance Measures

In April the Sonoma Marin Area Rail District Board (SMART) considered performance measures for its commuter rail operations. introduced by SMART’s recently hired CFO, Heather McKillop; it was the first time the SMART Board has focused on measuring its performance since the startup of rail service in August of 2017.

Staff recommended the Board adopt seven measures:

  1. Operating Expense per Vehicle Revenue Mile
  2. Operating Expense per Passenger Mile
  3. Passenger Trips per Vehicle Revenue Mile
  4. Average Fare per Passenger
  5. Bike/Ped Pathway Usage
  6. On-Time Performance
  7. Customer Satisfaction

The first four performance measures are readily available from the annual National Transit Database, (FY19/20 NTD statistics are shown in graphic form below). Measures five through 7 are not currently produced or available and will require additional data collection and presentation effort.

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James R. Mills

From 1960 to 1982, James R. Mills was a highly productive member of the State Legislature during which he served with distinction as the State Senate’s pro-transit Transportation Committee Chair and later as its President pro tem. During his time in the Legislature he was a consistent champion of improving passenger rail and other forms of public transit. He was justly proud of his legislative accomplishments which helped create the extensive and highly successful San Diego Trolley system and brought significant public transit improvements to many other parts of California. Mills died on March 27, 2021 at age 93.