Tag Archives: Caltrain

Caltrain Refresher

CaltrainThis is for those of you who travel on Caltrain, a commuter rail line that runs between San Francisco to San Jose in California. With the fall sports season well underway, many are taking it as an option to attend games and special events. All others can pass this post by.

1) Clipper Card Cheaper Then Buying A Ticket
Caltrain, unlink BART, gives those who use Clipper a break in the fare. According to the Caltrain fare chart a one-way paper ticket is $3.25 versus $2.75 using Clipper. The discount gets better if you are going further to San Jose. From San Francisco (Zone 1) to Santa Clara (Zone 4) the ticket will cost $9.25 versus $8.75. A day pass, which is valid all day, is $18.50 while the round trip Clipper is $17.50.

2) Tag On, Tag Off!
This is the most important rule using the Clipper card on Caltrain. You must tag your card at the Clipper card terminal before boarding the train and again when you get off. If you forget to tag, the conductor or fare inspector can issue you a ticket for fare evasion and toss you off the train at the next stop. Forgetting to tag off at your destination will cost you $12.75! That is the maximum one-way fare. When you tag off it automatically calculates the correct fare. But if you forget to do this by midnight, you get the maximum fare. Avoid this because as it can deplete your card’s cash value quickly! Make sure you have at least $1.25 in cash on your card or it will not allow you to tag at all!

3) Do Not Use Autoload
Clipper offers the autoload feature in theory to make it easier to load cash and passes. However it is beset with many problems and can take days to actually load. The best way to load a pass or cash is use a Clipper machine at the San Francisco or San Jose stations or any Walgreens store. Usually the photo area in most Walgreens is where they process the Clipper card. Simply tell them what you want to add to the card (pass or cash) and pay for it. Then it is loaded onto the card and ready to go (unless the pass does not become active till the first day of the month).

4) Parking
Some Caltrain stations have parking. The daily parking rate is $5.00. Take note of your parking space and pay for it at the ticket machine. Just select daily parking, type in your space number, and pay by cash/credit/debit card. You do not have to put the receipt on the dashboard of your car. If you decide not to pay, expect a ticket on your windshield. There is a monthly parking permit available to monthly pass and 8 ride ticket holders. Note that at the Millbrae station the Caltrain and BART parking are separate areas. Do not confuse the two!

5) Monthly Pass Perks
A monthly pass allows you to travel in the zones purchased Monday-Friday. But on weekends and holidays, you can travel all zones for no extra cost. So if you only go between Burlingame and San Francisco on the weekdays, you can take a trip down to San Jose for no extra cost. Nice.

7) Zone Upgrade
If you have a monthly pass or 8 ride ticket, to travel outside of the zones purchased you will need a zone upgrade ticket. This does not apply on weekends to monthly pass holders but applies at all times to 8 ride ticket holders. It costs $2.00 for each zone beyond your ticket zones. A good deal and lot cheaper then buying a ticket. See my write-up on this here.

8) Stanford Games
There are no Clipper or Caltrain ticket machines at the Stanford stop (only used for games and other events). If using Clipper, get on and off at the Palo Alto station. Or use a day pass (which does cost more) and get off at Stanford stop.

9) 49ers Games
Take Caltrain to Mountain View and then VTA light rail to Levi’s Stadium. You can purchase a combined Caltrain/VTA day pass at Caltrain ticket machines. However it is more expensive than using Clipper. As of November 2015, the one way VTA fare is $2.00 or $4.00 round trip from Levi’s Stadium. San Francisco (Zone 1) To Mountain View (Zone 3) is $14.50 round trip for total of $18.50. The special day pass is $20.50. Important note: If you have a two-zone Caltrain monthly pass, you receive a free transfer on VTA.

10)AT&T Park
Take Caltrain to Fourth and King station (the end of the line for northbound trains) and simply walk two blocks to the ballpark. It is the fastest way to get to the ballpark on the Peninsula.

11) Important Reminders
* Yes you can eat and drink on the train. Alcohol consumption is allowed up to 9pm.
* There are bathrooms on the trains, just ask a conductor where they are. The newer bombardier trains have one in every car.
*If going to a game in San Francisco, Mountain View, or San Jose, be advised you must toss out your open beer cans or bottles into the trash. If you exit the track platform into the main area, you can be cited for violating the open container law. It is also goes without saying that if you arrive highly intoxicated the police will have a chat with you.
*If you loaded a monthly pass at a Clipper terminal or at Walgreens, you do not need to tag to confirm or activate it. It is already loaded on the card. Only those who use autoload have to tag to download and confirm the pass on the card.
*Do not get smart with the conductors! If you get into their face because you have no ticket or some other issue, you will be escorted off the train, arrested and charged with assault. It is not worth it.

For Further Information
Caltrain
Santa Clara County Transportation Authority (VTA)
Akit’s Complaint Blog:Perhaps the best blog out there about the various problems using Clipper and other transportation issues.


Titanic Tidbits & Musings

1. National Geographic has decided to look back at the 1990s in an upcoming documentary called The ‘90s:The Last Great Decade? As is usual they send out press releases and even previews to media. Sadly TNC seems to never get those media packets. At any rate James Cameron’s Titanic is tied with Forrest Gump as best movie of the decade. Sadly for Kate Winslet, Jennifer Aniston was the female icon with Christina Applegate coming in second. And a show about nothing about four self-centered people barely beat out the X-Files. While Aniston was the babe, sadly the rest of her Friends were pushed aside by the show about nothing. Then again what was Friends about anyway?
Source:Titanic,’ ‘Seinfeld’ Top Best Of ’90s Poll(25 June 2014, Popwatch)

2.The Titanic Hotel at Liverpool’s Stanley Dock (not to be confused with the other Titanic hotel in the former White Star headquarters) is nearing completion reports Liverpool Echo. The first guests are slated to be International Festival For Business delegates. Prices for staying at the new hotel will be between £129-£200 a night (about $203-$339).
Source: Sign That Liverpool’s New Titanic Hotel Is Getting Ready To Open For Business(23 June 2014,Liverpool Echo)

3. In order to raise money for St John’s Hospice a group of fundraisers decided to have a Sink The Titanic food challenge. The challenge will be to eat a mammoth 3 foot, six inch burrito in 30 minutes at Lancaster’s Go Burrito. Calling Adam Richman from Man Vs Food! It is a daft idea, as one person notes in the article, but it certainly gets a notice and awareness of St. John’s Hospice. Have the antacid standing by. Eating that much burrito is bound to have after effects. You can click here to contribute.

4. MasterChef:Mutiny On The Beach Update
Joe Bastianich had the following to say about this recent episode. On Team Red he writes:
Sadly, the same cannot be said for the red team. Leslie was a disappointing leader, but at least he owned up to his incompetence. The rest of his team didn’t help much either, and for that alone they all deserved to lose. Their collective dislike of Leslie helped make a bad situation worse, so at the end of the day, it was everybody’s fault. Who knows how many people flew to California to experience this auspicious event? I have a restaurant and B&B in northeast Italy called Orsone. If my team there ever mishandled a wedding—one of the most important events in a couple’s life—I’d die of embarrassment. The end result on the plate was pleasing to the wedding party, but if we judges hadn’t been there, that would not have happened.

I did not delve into the other team members actions in my write-up. And Joe is right on this. They all wanted to throw Leslie under the bus for the failure not looking at their parts in it as well. Had they been left to their own devices and no one checked them at all, the result would have been very bad indeed. But perhaps they ought to let it happen if nothing else to teach them a lesson in being responsible. In fact, I suggest MasterChef do that at least once or perhaps twice a season. Let them take full and total responsibility for the cooking without any of the Culinary Trio telling them to correct things.

As for the Ahran and Leslie dustup:

Last night’s episode suffered no shortage of drama. Leslie continues to allow himself to be sucked into Ahran’s ridiculousness. As a seasoned adult, he should have recognized that with her he is not dealing with a peer. She is ruining this for herself, but it would be a real shame if Leslie lets her take him with her on the way down. Most of the kids from MasterChef Junior exhibit more poise and emotional maturity—look at last year’s winner, 13-year-old Alexander Weiss.

Ahran is still in high school, at least when the show was filming (she may have graduated by now) and pretty young to compete on the show. She already has shown how anger colors her thinking in a previous episode when she wanted to take Courtney down. And she all but accused the judges of favoritism when it comes to Courtney. That she dislikes Leslie is obvious. While he mispronounced her name at team selection, it was not intentional but she took as such. And in her rant against him said that was the reason she did not like him. At that point Leslie ought to have cut it off and walked away. Instead he decided to take her on at told her to get some cojones (paraphrasing again). The other gals did not like that. Ahran has her own problems and Leslie ought not to be sucked into them. He made it worse when he decided to put up three for the pressure test. To the judges, he showed he could be just as immature. Something they are going to be watching down the line. You know Ahran is in trouble when Joe believes 13-year-old Junior Masterchef winner Alexander Weiss is more mature.

5. Caltrain San Bruno Station
Okay for folks in and around San Bruno, CA, this is for you. The new Caltrain station at San Mateo & San Bruno Avenues was opened for use in April. Construction is still going on the underside (putting in steel plates etc). And use of San Mateo Ave at Huntington is still limited forcing drivers to divert San Bruno Ave and turning left to San Mateo Ave. The good news is that the elevated platform is spacious. The shelters are big allowing a lot more people to stand in them during inclimate weather. When it is windy the shelters come in handy. The downside is that there is no crossover to the other tracks, you have to access them from the street. It sucks but they could not build a wide platform that would allow an island configuration (where people can access trains in either direction from the center) for arrivals and departures. Parking is still an issue because Granite Construction still has it office and other things in that area. And both SamTrans 140,141 have Caltrain stops. The eastbound 140,141 stop near Chuy’s while the westbound stop is at Euclid. Unfortunately for eastbound bus riders who get off, there is no crosswalk at Euclid to cross over to the station. You have to walk up to San Bruno Ave for the crosswalk. San Bruno ought to put a crosswalk at Euclid.

Overall the new station is a vast improvement than the old one at Sylvan. There was no direct bus service to it. Of course being elevated means no more risks of cars stalling on the tracks in the downtown area. It has an easy access area for people with wheelchairs (ramps that lead up to the station on both sides of the station). The elevator is not done but once done, people who have problem walking up stairs can use it. Another plus it is a lot closer to Tanforan and San Bruno Bart. Instead of a 30-40 minute walk from Sylvan, it is 10 minutes or less by foot.

6. SamTrans Makes No Changes To 140/141
The recent schedule changes for SamTrans came into effect on 15 June. Neither of these routes had any schedule changes except that with schools out, runs that made trips to schools now run without going to those schools. Unfortunately some transit apps like Roadify seem to think SamTrans has shut down for the summer!


Caltrain Holiday Train This Weekend

The Caltrain Holiday Train is back and makes its annual ride this weekend–December 7 and 8–down to select stations on the peninsula. As always, the train is decked out for the event with Santa Claus running the show. There is music and donations of unwrapped toys for Toys For Tots and the Salvation Army are accepted. On both days there is a show in San Francisco 4th & King Station starting at 4pm before the train departs south. On Saturday the Holiday Train will visit Burlingame, Redwood City, Palo Alto (California Ave), and Santa Clara. On Sunday it visits Millbrae, San Mateo, Menlo Park, and Sunnyvale. For times and other information, go to Caltrain or Holiday-Train.org.

Sadly San Bruno is not part of this as in past years. Hopefully next year it will at the new station!

Caltrain Softens Rule About Writing Fare Evasion Citations

CaltrainAbout a year ago Caltrain took away conductor discretion when issuing fare evasion citations ordering them to write up violators and let a judge decide whether it was right or wrong. It was criticized at the time as draconian by some but Caltrain said it was necessary since they had a barrier free system. And also that enough time had passed for people to become familiar with using Clipper. Discretion though meant the conductor could decide on their own whether writing a ticket was actually needed. Perhaps it was someone new to the system or got the wrong ticket. If they see the person a lot on the train, it might just be a one time thing and get a warning. The fare evasion ticket is $300 plus whatever court fees or other fees that may be imposed.

That policy appears to be over. In the fall 2013 edition of
Caltrain Connection, an official publication of Caltrain, in the question and answer section about fare evasion tickets is this:

Q: On two separate occasions I’ve been on Caltrain and
have witnessed two conductors not issuing citations to
riders that did not have proof of payment. Why do some
people get warnings while others get citations?

A: Conductors have the authority to issue a citation to
any customer without a valid fare. However, they also are
allowed to use discretion when issuing citations depending
on the circumstances. As a barrier-free transit system,
it’s important to check fares and issue citations as
needed.

One wonders whether someone over at the court dropped them a line about all the citations showing up from Caltrain. Or simply wiser heads prevailed. At any rate, giving the conductors back the discretion is a good thing. They can usually discern if it is an honest mistake or someone trying to get a free ride.

Caltrain Musings

Caltrain
Photo: Wikipedia

*San Bruno Grade Separation Update
Good news! San Bruno & Huntington Ave street closure is over. It was closed on 20 September for massive construction that included lowering the grade under the San Bruno elevated railway section to accommodate more trucks. It was supposed to open on 30 Sept at 0500 but alas did not happen. So it was extended to Thursday at 8:00 p.m. And now the detour around that area is over. Huntington between Euclid and San Bruno Avenue has been nearly restored to its prior condition. When they began construction, the east side was closed except for construction traffic. That meant the west side, normally two lanes for southbound traffic, was converted into a two lane traffic zone for north and south traffic. It made driving difficult at times. Buses and other traffic that had to turn north from San Bruno onto Huntington had a difficult time. It was a tight turn to negotiate for buses. With one northbound lane now restored, it alleviates a traffic problem at the intersection.

Even better is that now the tracks are elevated, there is zero chance of a vehicle being stuck on the rails in that area. During construction there were two serious accidents. One involved a tractor trailer at Angus (to big and got stuck on the tracks) and the other at San Bruno Ave where someone abandoned a car on the track. A third minor one involved a car that got grazed by a train when it was just a little over that line (those lines are there for a purpose folks). Amazingly the car was driven away and found later by police at Bayhill shopping center.

For walkers though, the sidewalk in front of the old bank at Huntington & San Bruno is closed. You will need to detour to one of the crosswalks near Mills or Easton to cross over.

*Clipper Issue/Reminder About Tagging On & Off
Recently I had a small problem with Clipper. I tagged on in San Francisco and off at San Bruno station. But when I checked my account a few days later, I was charged to full amount rather than deducting a ride from my 8 Ride ticket. I emailed Clipper and they investigated the issue. They did refund the money but did deduct the fare (discounted for an 8-Ride ticket)from San Francisco to San Bruno since my 8 Ride Ticket by that time had expired. The problem was a rare one where the Clipper terminal was not properly sending the information. So always check your balance when paying with cash or by 8 Ride Ticket. Otherwise you might get a nasty surprise the next time you tag on.

Now about what happens if you forget to tag on or off. If you board the train in San Francisco or San Jose, chances are the conductors will check at the gate and turn you around to tag at the Clipper terminal. However if you do forget to tag on and the conductor aboard the train checks your card, simply put you are doomed. Conductors will issue a citation for fare evasion and you have to go to court. I think the fine is $380 (that includes court fees) but it could be more by now. Ignorance is no defense here since Caltrain has signs all over the place and conductors reminding everyone to tag on and off.

If you forget to tag off at your destination, Caltrain will assess the maximum one way ticket fare $12.75 and deduct it from the cash purse on your card. So remember to tag off when you get off the train. Otherwise if the cash balance on your card dips below $1.25, you cannot use it until you load cash. What happens if you do not have enough money on your card to pay the fare? What happens is you cannot use that card until you load cash and pay the negative balance on it. Remember except at San Francisco and San Jose stations, you cannot add cash to your Clipper card. Either go to Walgreens, a Clipper service center, call them up, or pay on the Internet.

*Important 8-Ride Ticket Reminders
-Cannot be used for zone upgrade. When you tag off, the cash needed for the extra zones traveled will be deducted.
-No all zones on weekends or holidays.
-Has a time limit of 30 days and then they go poof if not used.
-Can buy monthly parking permit.
-Must tag on at start of trip and at final destination. If you fail to tag off, you pay the maximum ticket of $12.75

Caltrain/Samtrans Alert
If a BART strike does occur, service to BART stations by SamTrans will be temporarily discontinued. This will effect Daly City, Colma, South San Francisco, San Bruno and Millbrae BART stations. So check with SamTrans or ask the bus driver for where the temporary stop is located if you using a bus that normally does go to a BART station. Caltrain has no plans to add extra trains as of yet, but expect some early morning commute trains to be even more packed when they depart Millbrae. Important tip: Express trains are almost always full (people standing in aisles), limiteds may be full (but not with people standing in aisles), and locals are generally have more seats available (they take longest to get to San Francisco). Plan accordingly. Bicyclists will likely have it even more tough when every seat and more is taken up.

Caltrain Sauna Effect
We have been having a some really warm weather. Sadly not all Caltrain cars have that air conditioning working right. One car I entered was warm enough for a sauna. Yikes! And the smell was pretty ripe as well.

Doors Do Not Lock Themselves
It is interesting to watch at San Francisco station (4th & King) as to who locks doors and who does not. Now usually the doors to tracks are locked when there is no need for them to be unlocked. And there is a security guard who does check. Sometimes the conductors will lock one side of the doors (the ones that will be open for the next departing train) and leave the opposite ones unlocked. And they clearly know this since I observe conductors go in and out of those doors as they get food or do other things. And train drivers are the worst. If a door is locked, they check the nearby ones. And then they walk to other ones nearby. Only if they cannot find one unlocked (or time is an issue), then they finally produce a key. But they rarely lock the door behind them (1-5 I observed locked and unlocked). They tell us to be observant about packages but if the conductors and drivers seem not to take much care in securing areas, it is no wonder why TSA wants to increase its presence in the railroad area. They might have to consider self locking doors that are always locked unless you insert a key and open it, and then lock when put back into place.

Announcement:Moving Transit Info To San Bruno Streets Blog

I am starting a new blog that will report on mass transit for San Bruno, CA. It is called San Bruno Streets. All the postings concerning SamTrans and Caltrain have been imported there. While the original postings will still be here, all new postings on those topics (and others of concern to San Bruno, CA). Simply put, I realized it was time to move that topic to another blog.

Caltrain Has Some Major Explaining To Do; So Does Local Media

What would the reaction be if, in a major metropolitan area, a local commuter train nearly ran over passengers detraining at a station it was not supposed to be passing through? We think it would be a major news story that would send out broadcast reporters to the scene and news writers to type furiously for the next print or online edition. Well my friends what happened at Caltrain’s South San Francisco station will surprise you.

Here is what happened. On 24 Aug northbound train 221 was at the South San Francisco station at 8:25 a.m. Northbound passengers have to cross the tracks to the parking lot and there are no crossing gates. Because another train in the southbound track would be unsafe (and impossible to get to the parking lot while there), the general practice is to allow only one train in the station. Trains either slow down between Bayshore or San Bruno or stop near the station to allow the other train to leave.

That is not what happened. A southbound express traveling at 76 mph suddenly came into view. Offloading passengers suddenly had to move quickly and that engineer put on the  emergency brakes. As everyone knows by now, these trains do not stop on a dime. Fortunately no one was hurt except the nerves of everyone who saw what happened. Both trains were stopped while reports were taken which meant north and south bound train service was disrupted for a while.

A mention of the incident appears on the Caltrain Facebook page by Nathan Benedict that day which says “A very dangerous and potentially deadly incident occurred this morning at the South San Francisco Caltrain station with the passengers of the #221 train. I was one of those passengers. Kindly look into that matter please. Thank you.” There also were a lot of messages tweeted about it. Yet nothing was reported by any local broadcast or print media that I could find until the 14 Sept 2012 article in the San Jose Mercury News titled “Terrified Caltrain Passengers Forced To Jump Out  Of Way Of Train.”’

According to the article Caltrain disclosed the incident at a recent board meeting and  justified not disclosing it publicly since no fatalities or disruptions occurred. It is an interesting line to take and is, to be accurate, correct. There were no fatalities. There was, however, a serious breach that endangered lives and would normally warrant lots of public concern. Caltrain deliberately choose to keep it quiet because it would raise serious concerns. More disturbing is that the northbound train operator tested positive for marijuana. Both conductors are on paid leave facing an investigation that will result in a fine or dismissal. Caltrain says it is conducting an internal investigation but that really ought to be done by someone independent to avoid any allegation of bias.

So where was KTVU/KRON/KPIX/KNTV, San Francisco Chronicle, Examiner,San Mateo Daily Journal, San Mateo Times on this story? They were not anywhere to be found except after the fact when Caltrain disclosed the information and the Mercury News reported on it. The local media is all over BART when something happens or when S.F. Muni is not having a great day. One possible reason is that Caltrain does not report its problems right away unless it is a major incident (like hitting a car or worse, someone killed on the tracks). Yet that does not seem to be right here. Plenty of people saw what happened and blogged or tweeted about it. Could it be our local media just was asleep at the switch and no one paid attention?

That is certainly possible but one suspects Caltrain talked it down if there were any inquiries. After all no one was killed or injured and the investigation is ongoing. I could see that working for some but not all. The blackout, if there was one, was just too large. The fact that most of the initial reporting was on Facebook and Tweets was a major reason for it escaping attention. Probably few reporters check Caltrain’s Facebook page or Tweets about it and Caltrain choose to say nothing about it publicly till September. Caltrain has an elitist attitude at times and it shows here. They are public agency accountable to both its paying passengers and to the general public whose money they get. It is shocking they choose to keep this quiet and shame on the local media for not being more attentive. Had the media found out this story back in August, Caltrain would have had to admit that a serious incident occurred that endangered lives.

Some will argue they kept it quiet to avoid causing problems in getting money for projects. That certainly has a ring of truth to it and possibly a reason here. I think it was simply to avoid bad publicity and that two veteran engineers could have screwed up (one having tested positive for marijuana). We do not know exactly how and why that southbound train ended up going through the station. Was it miscommunication from the northbound engineer? Did the train signaling system not work properly? Did the southbound engineer fail to see the signal or hear an important message? Was there a problem in the communication system? Lots of questions. Shame I am asking rather than Matier & Ross.


Whimsy On Caltrain 159

Conductors sometimes like to have fun when calling out stops but one conductor on Thursday’s 159 decided to regale the passengers by using funny accents when calling out the stops. At first it was amusing but as the trip progressed it started grating on the nerves. In the car I was riding in, passengers began to wonder what was going on. Was the guy stoned, drunk, or just crazy? I opined that perhaps he was just bored going up and down the line calling out the stops and decided to have some fun.

When the train pulled into San Francisco, the conductor decided to switch to an Irish brogue and give us a limerick. By this time I think many had quite enough and were racing to the exits before he decided to switch back to the child voice he had used earlier (the one that reminds you of Willy Wonka played by Johnny Depp). The conductor, an assistant I think, is usually decked out in the full Amtrak uniform. As I walked towards the exit, I saw him and the senior conductor assisting a passenger being unloaded on the lift. He seemed perfectly normal scotching the idea he was either drunk or high on narcotics.

As for a career in impressions, I recommend the conductor do not give up his day job. Leave that to experts like Rich Little. And he should remember there is a degree of professionalism his job requires. When he pulls stunts like this, people will wonder whether to take him seriously when it really matters.

Caltrain 8-Ride Ticket Surprise

Caltrain is proposing getting ride of the 8-Ride ticket and raising fares for paper users. They promote this as a fare increase on paper users but fail to mention the cost to the former 8 Ride ticket holders. Akit over at his blog ran the numbers and it shows how they are going to be screwed by its elimination. Presently 8 Ride tickets get a 15% discount from purchasing single ride tickets. That is the reason many buy the ticket. Its elimination means those users will end up paying more to take the train.

Now those crunching the numbers at Caltrain must have figured this out. By saying they are tariff modifications and that any hike hits paper users downplays how 8-Riders get hit. These guys ought to be fuming mad. The wizards behind this probably figure since they are getting a Clipper discount, the ought to be no complaint. As Akit points out, this is a fare hike on 8-Riders.

Riding The Rails With Caltrain

Correction (13 Sept 2012):
I noted yesterday that the increased passenger levels meant no fare hikes. I forgot about the proposed “Changes To Condified Tariff” that will soon be decided upon by Caltrain. According to press release, Caltrain plans no fare increases for Clipper users but on cash passengers. They will pay 25 cents more per zone. If you use Clipper from San Francisco to San Jose, the one way fare is $8.75 or $17.50 roundtrip. Cash users will pay $9.75 or $19.50 roundtrip. They plan to eliminate 8-Ride Tickets and increase Go Pass Cost.

Mark’s view:
Eliminating the 8-Ride ticket is a good idea. It simply has been a major headache for most users. The old system simply required a machine stamp before boarding the train. The reason for this ticket was for those people who travel infrequently during a month but not enough to buy a full monthly pass. What Caltrain ought to do is offer something that BART does, the High Value Ticket that offers a discount. And consider free parking on weekends like many BART stations do as well.

Updates:
*San Bruno (temporary station)-The droning gas fired lights has been replaced by the steady glow of parking lamps. This is good news for the residents of the area. Now the parking lot is clearly illuminated. And the out of service info screen on the northbound side has been fixed. Sadly one of the Clipper readers on that side is still out of order (at least two months now).

*The Clipper machines at Fourth & King are fully operational. You can add cash or passes to your Clipper card at these machines. No really, you can! There was a long line the other day at Walgreens across from the station. While getting my favorite trail mix bars, one guy in line (the line went down that aisle) said there were Clipper machines at the station but not operating. I pointed out that there were now online and could add passes to a Clipper card. He and a friend left while others, to my surprise, stayed right there and one person saying “I don’t think you can do that….” Well folks, you can.

Observations:

*You see funny things when sitting around  Fourth & King station while waiting to board a train. If you frequent it enough you recognize the street people who constantly check the garbage for aluminum cans or anything else they might need. Some drift through asking passengers for spare change. Others just sit a while during the day. There are notable ones that mutter to themselves and saying things that only they can understand. Then again perhaps some of the ordinary people do things that seem odd. Take one gal I saw recently. Her carbonated water was too agitated when she opened it. Now most people would find some sensible way of dealing with it. Hers was to spill it out on the floor just behind one of the benches. Made for a nice puddle that the janitorial staff had to clean up later.

*Some months ago there was a directive issued that during non-commute hours and weekend trains that tickets be checked prior to boarding in San Francisco/San Jose. A lot of conductors did not like this and voiced their displeasure. Now it looks like either the rule has eased up or some conductors are just not doing it. Perhaps the change in management (Amtrak lost its long standing contract with Caltrain) has made the conductors less afraid to defy. However do not think they are not checking aboard the trains. One diligent conductor on southbound 284 checks nearly every time usually when the train pulls over in Bayshore to wait for the express to pass. And the policy of ticketing without exceptions appears to be in full force.

*Northbound train 159 is rarely on time and nearly always 3-4 minutes off but sometimes longer. It is a late afternoon train (it departs San Jose at 3:05 P.M.) and is supposed to arrive in San Francisco at 4:38 P.M. It is rare to see it pull in early (it does happen). One time it was ten minutes late into San Bruno and of course no explanation.

*News reports indicate passenger levels have risen on Caltrain. There are two possible factors (excluding weekends which draw different numbers from the weekday). One is that South of Market (SOMA or to us old timers south of the slot) has a lot more people working in the area than before. Second is that people are switching their mode of transportation to Caltrain from BART. BART is more expensive from San Bruno and Millbrae to San Francisco than Caltrain. The drawback is that from Fourth & King you have to take SF MUNI to downtown.  The good news is that Caltrain is not planning any fare hikes just now. The bad news is that they still have major financial problems. Perhaps all that money for the high speed rail to nowhere could be shunted over to Caltrain.

*There is a new Subway outlet near the San Francisco station. Head east on Townsend and just past the Golden Arches.

*Signs of doom when aboard a Caltrain: The train scheduled to leave later departs before your train.