I'm sorry, but I'm going to vent...and possibly more...for a minute.
I am sick and tired of Caltrain. And I'd like to hear from others who have had bad experiences.
After tonight's game, with two friends who live a two hour drive away and who drove to my house (near the San Carlos Station) to take the train up and down to last night's fireworks game.
I'm going to leave the crazy stuff about Caltrain's new lack of parking permit machines out of this...that is a separating and also frustrating issue aside.
After the game, we walked onto the Portwalk to watch the fireworks, and then headed straight out to the train station at the end of it. As we were literally walking to the door for the express train (which shaves more than a half hour off the ride), they closed them in our faces (quite literally) without a word. I held up our two tickets (one was an eight-ride with stamps for both of them) between my fore and middle fingers, finally getting someone to talk to me, who briskly said "We leave 15 minutes after gametime, not fireworks. Read it (the website) again." and shut the door in my face again.
On Fireworks Nights, the express and local trains will depart approximately 15 and 25 minutes, respectively, after the fireworks, or when full. -- Caltrain Website
(Someone later said the train was full, but that was not a Caltrain operator, nor what I was told until the later sequence occurred)
So, frustrated, I go to the next train, which will delay me, and my two-hour drive friends an extra half hour, and get the door shut in my face AGAIN, and shunted to a third train.
I get on there, and I try talking to a conductor about this behavior, and why the express train was leaving early. That conductor tells me to just walk away or I'd be kicked off. Then another conductor yells "That's the guy who flipped me off!" I go up to her and say "Excuse me?" She says it again, and I do the motion again, showing her I was showing her tickets. She says "You are such a liar!" I ask for her name to file a complaint, and then ask for the other conductor's name when he tells me to walk away.
At that point, the Sheriff's deputy is called over to walk me away.
The deputy, surprisingly, was friendly and sympathetic, and encouraged me to complain (customer service booth, of course, was closed), and he expressed to me that the conductors are always doing this to people, and things won't change unless people speak up. I assured him, spoken up will happen with me. He was the one who told me the other train was full (which would've been an acceptable explanation three conductors could have given me, but one lied and the other two wouldn't talk to me). He also got me the conductor's badge numbers so I could make a complaint.
Complaint will be made tomorrow morning, along with demands for refunds of my train tickets, and the $95 cab fare I was forced to take.
That said, this is the most recent of a long line of Caltrain issues. This is perhaps the worst-run public transit agency I've ever seen...and we live in an area with BART. They never have enough cars, and turn away paying customers because they have spent years not having enough room for bikes. They have underestimated Giants crowds for years, often either overfilling cars or telling people to wait for trains half and hour or an hour away because they don't have the capacity for the system. The first couple of years, I figured they just needed time to adjust and figure out the way things are with baseball games. But ten years later, they still underestimate capacity....especially when for a return trip home they should know how many people they brought up and add a car or two or a secondary train?
And that adds into crazy fare increases, and at least in San Carlos, demands to pay for parking but no machines (which almost never worked even when they were there anyway).
Now, I get, having worked in retail for many years, that people get tired after many long days putting up with assholes...especially drunk ones after Giants game. I can even understand the wrong impression that one conductor got that I flipped her off. However, neither such thing accounts for being assholes to me (who, as several people can attest to, does not EVER drink), or for kicking me off the train when asking for names to file a complaint.
So I just want to know...other horror stories for Caltrain? And...is it time we stopped taking it?
Take me seriously for a moment here. This is the rate for an average Caltrain ticket within two zones (i.e. someone taking the train from Redwood City to Millbrae):
• Per person for ticket-$8.50
• Per Car-$2 parking
For a pair of people, that's $19. For a group of four, that $36. Plus the extra time leaving early or stopping at a lot of stops on the way back. I think no one will disagree that it is faster to drive home than take a train.
As a comparison, parking in one of the Yerba Buena garages nearby:
• $15 for four hours, $18 for five.
• Gas from Redwood City (As a worst case scenario, the furthest in this zone. that 26 miles. Assume 20 MPG average and $2.50 a gallon): $3.00.
Granted, in exchange for a faster ride home, it's a little longer walk. (2/10 of a mile from the park to the train station; 6/10 to the Yerba Buena garage along 3rd street) But those garages don't have any of the traffic issues post-game that happen at the lots, I can say from many first-hand experiences (including the All-Star game).
So, for four friends from RC, the choices are:
• Train - $36, less walk
• Car - $21 tops, and possibly as low as $18 here or there, quicker to and from games.
The differences are the same for further zones south, except the train rides are MUCH longer in comparison to a similar car ride down there. And families may be able to take youth tickets, but the cost remains lower (lets say two youth tickets, and the 4 person family is $27).
Is taking the train really worth it? Financially? Environmentally, sure...but it's bad enough when you have to deal with the a-holes on the train who start this vicious cycle I was caught up in tonight. When it's also the conductors acting like a-holes...well, there you go.
Caltrain has gotten it's last ticket from me, at least until I receive a compelling reason not to avoid it. And I say this as a person with gout, for whom walking longer distances can be a frickin' trial. I'd rather deal with that than the people who I've dealt with not just today, but for the past decade.
Anyone else got feelings on this?