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June 18, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, June 18, 2004

Bullet hits the mark Bullet hits the mark (June 18, 2004)

Caltrain riders welcome speedy new addition

By David Herbert

With record-high gas prices and congested highways, commuters are finding that the new "baby bullet" express trains and the resumption of Caltrain weekend service is hitting the mark.

"We did some head counts the other day and based on that, we are estimating that we are carrying approximately 5,600 riders on the baby bullet trains per day," said Caltrain spokeswoman Janet McGovern, adding that exact numbers are not available because Caltrain does not have gates or turnstiles.

The feedback from commuters, she added, has been overwhelmingly positive.

Many riders are finding the baby bullet trains, which make just four stops between San Jose and San Francisco, significant time savers.

"It's phenomenal," said San Francisco resident Fredrik Alkdal, who boarded the train in Mountain View on Monday afternoon. "For the first time, Caltrain is as fast as driving to the city."

Others like the baby bullet's schedule.

"The actual times are better" said Dean Enright, who also commuted home from the Peninsula to San Francisco. "It's more lined up for business hours."

The recent spike in prices at the pumps was another incentive for Enright to take the baby bullet.

"I spent $250 on gas last month," he said. "You better believe [gas prices are affecting my commute]."

There are, however, some complaints about the interior design of the trains.

"I don't like the new seats," Alkdal said. "With the seats facing each other, the four of us get our feet entangled."

Some commuters have also expressed discontent with the smaller storage capacity for bicycles, which was halved in order to make room for more passenger seats.

Though concrete numbers do not exist, there are signs that the new express trains are nevertheless drawing more people to Caltrain, according to McGovern.

On the day baby bullet service began, there was a "60 percent increase in day pass sales, so that means that we had some new people that were trying the service," she said.

Weekend Caltrain service, which resumed two weeks ago after a two-year stoppage, has also been a hit with commuters.

"We are estimating that we had 20,000 riders per day for the first weekend," McGovern said. Last weekend's trains were also crowded, she continued, adding that this service has been "very, very, very popular."

Rides have been free for the last two weekends, but regular prices will resume this weekend, McGovern added.

E-mail David Herbert at [email protected]

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