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Ned Carlson2
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I suspect that this may in fact be the future. The long distance and duplication of existing public service seem to me largely a result of thing unique to the Bay Area, but employer shuttles are unquestionably a powerful tool. It's certainly wasteful in comparison to living locally or traditional transit service, but by the same token it is dramatically more efficient than these same people commuting by car. I'd be very interested in seeing an examination of the energy differential between someone living in the city and using shuttles vs living in the valley but being car dependent (of course a lot depends on how these people are living in the city, but I rather suspect if they were driving everywhere to begin with they wouldn't bother with the shuttles). Employer directed services certainly seem the only realistic way to provide any service to the kind low density employment lands that traditional industry is tied to and everyone else still seems to like. It also seems like one of the most realistic way of getting significant private funds into transit operation if that is a goal. Looking at the Peninsula and Bay Area more specifically I tend to think that employer shuttles are honestly a highly desirable service to have. It certainly goes a long way to shifting a clientele that would otherwise likely be auto dependent, goes a long way to encouraging urban living and does so largely at private expense. If improving efficiency or shifting some of the market to more conventional service becomes a goal I'd argue that the focus really should be on trunk portion of the route, trying to get the employers to connect their shuttles to rapid transit stations rather than direct to the city, but that really does require dramatic improvements to Caltrain and significant changes in SF and San Jose. Jarrett's observations about the limits of the blended solutions, and the focus Caltrain has on longer trips has also left me wondering if maybe there should be a close look at the long derided BART Around the Bay. Such a system could deviate from the Caltrain corridor itself, eliminating the need for a quad track corridor and the sort of infrastructure that caused the fight over the HSR line. I could envision an end product that work very well, consisting of BART providing local service and all day frequency while Caltrain operates more similarly to a high frequency HSR service than traditional commuter rail or the sort of S-Bahn like operation contemplated under the original four track full grade seperation HSR plan.
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Oct 2, 2012