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Service Improvements

Imagine a More Connected Future

Instead of waiting in traffic for hours, wouldn't a low stress, quick, and convenient option by train be a better solution for travel? Imagine a future with a faster, more connected train system that provides people with safe, efficient, equitable, and affordable travel whether going to work, school, to visit family, or for fun. Picture the possibilities with convenient access and improved train service to connect to desired destinations across the Northern California Megaregion. There are many different factors that make up train service and ultimately, it’s the service provided that creates the passenger experience. 

Service improvements for Link21 include:

  • Reliability: timely departure and arrival
  • Faster travel times: quicker arrival to your destination
  • Frequency: more trip options and shorter wait times
  • Convenience:  more direct trips and easier transfers
  • More capacity and resiliency: service redundancy to reduce crowding and maintain travel options during service disruptions
  • Equity: increased train service access for communities that have been marginalized, the transit dependent, and access to important destinations
  • Longer hours: extended service on nights and weekends (Requires policy decision/action by BART)
  • Clean and green travel: Shifting travel away from congested freeways and increasing ridership on future zero emission trains 
  • Markets and connections: better service to existing or new stations and easier connections between train services

A foundational goal of Link21 is to transform the passenger experience and one important way to do this is to improve service, one of four building blocks for Link21 concepts in addition to markets, train technology, and infrastructure. We have been engaging with residents and agency stakeholders across the Megaregion to better understand travel needs. In response to what we have heard, we have identified Link21 concepts that are designed to add service frequency, potential new connections, travel time savings, more direct trips, and better transfers between Regional Rail and BART. A new train crossing between San Francisco and Oakland provides service redundancy and reliability by allowing trains to continue operating, should one crossing temporarily be taken out of service. A new crossing makes the existing megaregional train system function better, while also offering riders new or improved service. To learn more about Link21 concepts and how they benefit communities and riders, visit our concepts page. 

Improving Train Service for the Future

All concepts being considered for Link21 improve upon existing service today and each offer valuable benefits that create enhanced access, connection, and reliability. Link21 is focused on providing more Urban | Metro service within the core Bay Area and improved Intercity | Express service for longer distance travelers. Learn more about these two important types of service to meet your travel needs:

Urban | Metro

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A type of service for short to medium trips that operates within metro regions at higher frequencies and medium average speeds. BART provides this service today. Caltrain will provide this type of service with its modern electrified trains starting in fall 2024.

  • More frequent trains (every 2-10 minutes)
  • More stops / shorter distances between stations (1-5 miles apart)
  • Medium average speeds

Intercity | Express 

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A type of service for medium to long trips that connects regions, as well as urban and rural communities, at lower frequencies and higher average speeds. Operators like Capitol Corridor, Amtrak, San Joaquins, Altamont Corridor Express, and others provide this service on shared tracks typically owned by private freight rail.

  • Less frequent trains (every 30 minutes-1 hour+)
  • Fewer stops / longer distances between stations (5+ miles apart)
  • Higher average speeds, faster travel times

Link21 is looking to enhance these service types within key corridors and better connect the standard-gauge (Regional Rail) and broad-gauge (BART) train systems. Determining which train technology will go in the crossing is based on the desired service outcomes and markets to which we wish to connect. 

Service Trade-offs

The reality about designing train service is that some service features can’t occur simultaneously. Here are just a couple examples of trade-offs the Link21 Team is considering through its planning process:

Service to Many Stations Versus Express Service

Service to many stations expands access to more areas. But since the train is starting and stopping more often, it takes longer to get where you want to go. Express service gets you to your destination faster, but has limited stops that might not fit your needs. Caltrain has both express and all-stop service. A system can have both, but not all stations have the same types of service.

Train Frequency Versus One-seat Rides

We all like the idea of boarding a train once and taking it straight to our final destination (what we call a one-seat ride). However, a system that only has one-seat rides will be more limited in providing frequent train service on the busiest routes.

If every station offered a one-seat ride to every destination across Northern California, segments carrying the most routes would have more trains than they could carry. Trains on those routes wouldn’t be able to operate with enough frequency, riders would need to wait longer, and once onboard, experience more crowding.

The alternative is to design train routes and transfers together so that it’s quick and easy to change between trains on routes that run frequently. A rider’s overall travel time may be shorter because they can catch a train that comes sooner.

We recognize transfers can be difficult for some riders so we’re exploring opportunities to improve ease of travel for riders, including seamless transfers, short walking distances, and accessible stations.

Select Proposed Service Improvement

Standard-gauge (Regional Rail) Train Technology in the Crossing

Standard-gauge (Regional Rail) train technology can provide riders with two different types of service with one crossing: Urban | Metro and Intercity | Express service. This option creates opportunity for a better Oakland transfer station between BART and Regional Rail as well as bringing new Urban | Metro service to stations in the East Bay that do not have it today.

See examples of how standard-gauge (Regional Rail) technology in the crossing could transform and improve today’s trips: