Monday, May 23, 2016

CALTRAIN's Communications, The Good and The Sadly Bad


Over the last several months I have noticed an improvement in how Caltrain in the Bay Area communicates with its riders during unscheduled events.

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A few months ago when riding the train, there were times my train would come to a complete stop, or slow to 10mph in a 75mph zone. And the ridership was never told one damn thing.

But as time went on, things seemed to improve as the conductors started to pass out information on why we were crawling. (Broken UP signal intersections.)

And they are getting slightly more chatty in general.

But today a new wrinkle slammed into the communication efforts by Caltrain that just seemed unacceptable.

This morning (Mon, 5-23-16) another person stepped out in front of a Northbound train in Burlingame, forcing the train to stop.

I found this information out because I had learned a long time ago that surfing Twitter for the term "caltrain" brought up more information that was pertinent to my travels than anything else.

And it was on Twitter that I followed the travesty that comes from a suicide on the Caltrain tracks.

Caltrain and a few other Twitter users helped the transition of information flow about nicely, so for those on social media, the information was out there.

But sadly, despite at least 30% of my train's compliment of riders looking to switch trains at Tamien and San Jose to head into San Francisco, not one word was delivered to the passengers via either the conductors on the trains or by the electronic signs at the stations.


I wasn't sure about this being the case all around the system, but I saw various other social media posts asking the same thing.

An exchange on Facebook:

USER:

Why are you all over social media but fail to announce the disruption on the platform as you held the train at Redwood City for 7 minutes. The conductors just waited without advising passengers waiting for the next train that won't come.

Caltrain:

I am one person and this is my job. There are serious limitations to the VMS signs. Conductors can't have free conversation so get limited info. We do the best we can to use all tools available.

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Those very same, "limited" VMS signs have translated information to riders at train platforms in the past. I don't remember the exact level of detail, but they can deliver some info. And if they are that limited, time to look for an upgrade! That is, if they had the cash to do that.

But the other aspect is that with all of social media being aware of the Caltrain delay, why can't someone in an official capacity pass this information on to a conductor who can then apprise folks on other trains who might be impacted by the delay so they can start making phone calls or the appropriate actions to deal with the delay?

It seems too easy to me to be able to have the conductors pass the info on as a huge courtesy to its ridership. OR is Caltrain worried that the conductors would then be beseiged by riders with their usual swarm of stupid questions.

Yes, riders can be the most brilliant, patient and understanding humans on the planet.  NOT!

The "scientifically gifted" started come out of the woodwork, you know, because being on Facebook or Twitter gives you instant degree in business administration and what not.

Those highly intelligent people started crying how Caltrain has to fix these delay issues and that's why they don't ride the train. (But they closely follow events on Twitter!) Plus other non-sensical posts where social media users vented their frustrations.

Be it as it may, I think today was a huge dis to the ridership in respect for their own sense of information while events were unfolding.

Caltrain, respect your client-base better than this.


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Hi - sorry for the confirmation but I need to weed out the noise from the well intended comments. Thanks for leaving a note... - Bruce