Capitol Corridor Business Plan

The Capitol Corridor trains (Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority) is seeking comment on its 2020-2022 Annual Business Plan, at https://www.capitolcorridor.org/business-plan/. The plan is 24 pages long, readable, but full of details that may take some while to process. There is a separate Vision Plan (2014-11) and Vision Implementation Plan (2016-11) [https://www.capitolcorridor.org/vision-plan/] which cover long-term plans, but the business plan does reference a number of longer term projects.

Capitol Corridor has lost on-time performance over the last two years. End-point on time performance, passenger on time performance, and operator delays have all declined, though not precipitously. Though my own frequent travel on the Capitol Corridor is often not time sensitive, the many people who commute for work and professional meetings are time sensitive, and I am concerned that a loss of performance will lead to reduced ridership. Though interruption by freight traffic has traditionally been the issue with delays, it seems as though break-down of equipment is becoming more and more common. The passenger cars, and many of the locomotives, are aging, and that contributes to the program. The state has failed to make a purchase of NEW passenger cars to replace old ones, and it is showing. But I also suspect that the rolling stock is simply not being maintained to the level of reliability that it should be. The business plan doesn’t really address these issues.

My own experience as regular rider over the last eight years (and a bit before that) is that the quality of the ride, the smoothness of the train on the tracks, has declined significantly over this time. I used to be able to write in my journal while on trips, and that is no longer possible. In fact, for many sections, it is no longer possible to type on a keyboard, as the jilt make proper finger placement unlikely. Again, many passengers are business customers who are using the travel time to catch up on or do work, but if the ride continues to deteriorate, they won’t be able to. Of course the quality of the tracks is not directly the responsibility of Capitol Corridor, as Union Pacific owns the rails and right of way. But it does point out that running passenger trains on a freight system is not viable in the long run. Capitol Corridor, and the California Division of Rail, must move towards ownership of track. A higher speed rail line, up from the 79 mph that can’t always be maintained due to poor track quality, up to 150 mph that is desired, simply cannot take place on tracks owned and maintained by Union Pacific. The Capitol Corridor should eventually be electrified, and it is unlikely that UP will ever allow that on its routes (though it is present in other countries).

There is also a lot to like in the business plan, upgrading signage, WiFi, bicycle accommodation, California Integrated Travel Program (better ticketing and transfer), Sacramento to Roseville double-tracking phase 1 with a small increase in trips, improvements to Davis station, and others. I am not being negative about Capitol Corridor service, I use it often and love it. I’ve tried the less expensive bus services (Megabus, FlixBus, etc.), but have gone back to the train for most trips because it is just better in all the ways I care about most.

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Ridge Trail: Indian Tree & Burdell 2020-01

Yet another transit-accessible ridge trail segment. I took Capitol Corridor to BART to Golden Gate Transit 70 to Marin Transit 251, and got off at the intersection of Novato Blvd and San Marin Dr, which is right on the trail route. I finally after all these years realized what the difference between GGT 70 and 101 is. 70 stops at every bus pad along highway 101, meaning every interchange, while 101 only stops at the transit center in San Rafael. The difference is travel time is remarkable, so my return trip was on GGT 101.

First I headed southwest, into O’Hair Park (city of Novato), where the trail climbs up through bay laurel forest to grassy hillsides, then along the edge of a residential neighborhood. It then climbs again to the ridge of Verissimo Hills Open Space, North Marin Watershed, and some private lands, with good views off to both sides. Then down to cross Vineyard Rd and to the trailhead for Indian Tree Open Space. The trail initially climbs through bay laurel and oak forest, then into scattered groves of redwood trees. At the top, the forest gives way to grasslands with open views west and north. A small cluster of redwoods just south of where the trail tops out contains a very large redwood. I walked out to the end of the mapped trail, and then north for a while for the views, though I think the future trail will head south from here, towards Lucas Valley Open Space. There are already ranch/fire roads, so I assume there are easements to be obtained.

trail through redwoods in Indian Tree

I retraced my steps to the O’Hair trailhead and then a short ways along roads to the Mt Burdell section. The trail starts alongside a creek in a narrow corridor, but then starts to climb in the wide open Mount Burdell Open Space preserve. The website says this is the largest of the Marin County Open Space District lands. Climbing steadily through grasslands and forest patches, the Dwarf Oak trail climbs to a fire road where it continues upward. There are indeed dwarf oaks along the trail, interior live oak I’m guessing, but whether they are a different variety, or dwarfed by grazing, or on poor serpentine soils, I don’t know. There is a wide valley about half way up, and then the climb continues, steeper on the fire road than the trail. Mount Burdell itself is covered with trees, no expansive views, but open areas nearby do offer views. Or at least would if the south wind had not blown the bay fog up into Marin. The day was warm with broken sunshine at the bottom, but at the top, it was cold and windy and damp.

meadow in Mount Burdell

I walked a ways down the trail into Olompali State Park, a nice and seemingly little used trail, and then cut back across to the ridge top meadow, climbing over the stone wall that runs along the summit ridge. I headed out the Eagle Rim Trail, a new one that follows the ridge westward and then hooks back to meet the fire road. The trail was obviously laid out by mountain bikers. This might be the route of the future ridge trail, as it is my guess that it would follow this ridge down into the valley before climbing again to Helen Putnam County Park.

Flowers are not out yet. I saw a few yellow composites, not sure what they are but perhaps non-native (early flowering plants often are), and a single California poppy. The trails are muddy from the rain, but certainly not impassible.

I walked followed the fire road and trail back down, picked up my backpack, and caught the bus back to Novato, to San Francisco, and BART and Capitol Corridor home.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157712757638286; Bay Area Ridge Trail collection: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/.

Circumnavigation progress: 555.1 km of 612 km (380 miles), 91% of completed trail.

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Ridge Trail: Petaluma area 2020-01

A day trip to the Petaluma area, by transit, and partly bicycling and partly hiking. I took the train to Richmond, BART to the Embarcadero, the Larkspur Ferry to Larkspur (my first time on that ferry), and the SMART train to Petaluma. I rode my bike to the trailhead for Helen Putnam County Park, across a trail gap of 2 km on surface streets.

The trailhead is at the edge of a residential neighborhood in western Petaluma, just up into the hills. The Putnam segment is short, only 2 km, but it does provide nice view of the coastal hills west of Petaluma. The weather was great that day, and it was the end of winter break, so there were a lot of people out hiking. Though the trail ends at Chileno Valley Rd, I suspect the future trail will head south-southeast from the higher area, towards the next segment (or last segment, depending on direction), at Mt Burdell near Novato.

spreading oak in Helen Putnam park

I then returned to the route through eastern Petaluma, all on streets and paths, riding my bike, 9.6 km each way. Though this is a temporary route, to be replaced by one closer to the Petaluma River and along Adobe Creek, I understand, it is still a nice route. The trail follows the Petaluma River upstream, and then Lynch Creek, and then along the greenbelt at the east edge of town. Though the route is never far from suburbia, it feels more natural. I extended beyond the end to Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, where I’d not been since I was a little kid. This was General Vallejo’s working ranch home, from which he kept his army supplied.

bridge over Petaluma River

At the end of the ride, I went back to the SMART train, then GGT bus to San Francisco, then BART to Berkeley for a Cris Williamson concert at Frieght & Salvage, and then following day time at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, and a Groundhog Day at San Francisco Playhouse. A full weekend!

Circumnavigation progress: 538.3 km of 612 km (380 miles) existing, 88%.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157712551997467

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Ridge Trail: Hwy 92 to Saratoga Gap 2018-09

I’ve looked back at all my Ridge Trail hikes, and noticed that I missed several, including Sneath to Daly City, Fifield-Cahill docent hike through San Francisco watershed, Daly City to Golden Gate Bridge, and some Ridge Trail Council day hikes. But the major trip I’ve missed is Highway 92 south to Saratoga Gap, so here is that one.

I took various forms of transit from San Francisco to the Highway 92 summit at Skylawn Cemetery, the last being SamTrans bus 294. South from here there is no trail, so I walked on the shoulder of Skyline Blvd, which is not pleasant but is not horrible,, 4.6 miles. The trail starts again in Purisima Creek Redwoods, dropping through oak and then redwood forest to Purisima Creek, and then climbing back to the ridge. The elevation loss and gain, and distance, is worth it, and much more pleasant than walking along Skyline.

The next section to Wunderlich County Park mostly parallels Skyline, but most of the time is far enough away to not hear the traffic. The forest is mostly oak and oak woodlands with occasional views. South of Wunderlich, the trail is a fire road, not officially part of the Ridge Trail but easy to walk and easy to follow. I stopped at Alice’s Restaurant in La Honda, where I could have got anything I want, but only had a beer, and then continued south along the shoulder of Skyline. The official trail picks up again at Windy Hill Open Space. The next day started with heavy fog below the ridge but bright sunlight and no wind above. After a short gap, the trail starts again in Russian Ridge Open Space and continues into Skyline Ridge Open Space, most across open hillsides of grass, with occasional patches of forest.

fall grasses along Ridge Trail

The ridge trail continues through various open space preserves, along the ridge with views for a while, and then dipping into the forest for the remainder to the distance to Saratoga Gap. Though Skyline Blvd is never far from the trail, you hear it only occasionally, and cross it once.

Saratoga Gap is one major trailhead not served by any kind of transit, so I hitchhiked down to the town of Saratoga, where I discovered the the bus doesn’t run on weekends, so had to hitchhike to a Caltrain station. And home on Caltrain and BART and Capitol Corridor.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/sets/72157704670762222/. The collection of my Ridge Trail photos, which includes trips not posted about, is at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/.

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Ridge Trail: Saratoga to Almaden 2018-10

This is a Ridge Trail hike that I neglected to post about in 2018, but it was a significant chunk of the trail, so I’m posting now for the record.

I took Capitol Corridor to San Jose, then a bus to West Valley, and then hitchhiked up to Saratoga Gap where I’d finished off on a previous trip (also not posted), and headed south. No transit comes close to the trailhead at Saratoga Gap, so driving or hitching is the only access. I hope that someday there will be at least limited weekend transit access to all the major trailheads. A desire to get out in nature should be available without driving a car, which is destructive of the same nature you are accessing.

The trail south along the ridge is mostly through forest, without many views, through Castle Rock State Park and Sanborn County Park. There are some small groves of Pacific Yew, a conifer with ‘cones’ that look more like fruits. It then drops off the ridge via the John Nicholas Trail, a new trail which is a travesty. It was clearly designed by mountain bikers, as it roller coasters, loops around, drops and then climbs without reason, and has unnecessary steep downhills. The route then follows a fire and water facility access road out to a trailhead on Black Road. I walked Black Road out to the Bear Creek Road crossing over Highway 17. There is no shoulder, or space for a trail alignment on Black Road, but it was a low traffic day and not an unpleasant walk except for too much time on pavement. I walked along the edge of Lexington Reservoir along roads and informal trails to the next trailhead on the east side of Lexington. My understanding is that the trail alignment will climb to a ridge and then run down towards Lexington Reservoir. This is a gap of 6.2 miles in the trail.

Ridge Trail south of Saratoga Gap

The trail climbs steeply into Sierra Azul Open Space, heading east. As it reaches the ridge there are good views and interesting chaparral vegetation, as well as some patches of oak forest. The trail drops into the Guadalupe Creek watershed, beneath (far beneath) Mount Umunhum on fire roads and out to the Jacques Ridge Trailhead on Hicks Road. It crosses several small tributaries, and is mostly in denser forest. I ate lunch at the trailhead and then crossed the road. I did not take the side trip up Mount Umunhum as that was beyond the capability of my feet. I don’t keep my feet in condition between backpack trips, only walking, so my feet wear out before my muscles do. So the top is for another trip.

The next section through Almaden-Quicksilver County Park is much more open, and passes a lot of relicts of the mercury mining era, which ended surprisingly recently (1976). There are many parallel trails through here, more than are necessary, and it is a little hard to figure which one is the official ridge trail.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/sets/72157679975620528/

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Ridge Trail: Santa Teresa 2019-11

Another section done, November 2019, one the last of the transit accessible sections in the south bay and east bay. I took Capitol Corridor to Diridon Station, light rail to Santa Teresa, and bus to McKean Road, near the trailhead. I walked up to Mockingbird Trailhead, which is the end of the Almaden Quicksilver section that I’d hiked in October 2018 (no post). There is a gap on surface streets, then the trail follows Alamitos Creek down and Calero Creek up, through suburban neighborhoods and then agricultural land.

sycamores along Calero Creek

The trail then heads steeply uphill into Santa Teresa County Park. It was raining off and on all day, with more rain visible to the west over the Santa Cruz Mountains, so the trail was muddy, but there were people out hiking on this day after Thanksgiving. Just before reaching the Pueblo picnic area, there is a ridge trail sign that is impossible, pointing three different directions, but the correct route is towards the picnic area, or to the right in the opposite direction. I sheltered at the picnic area to wait out a short downpour, then headed up the fire road to Coyote Peak. Coyote is supposed to be one of the best views around, but the views were obscured by low clouds and rain. The official trail ends at this point, but is likely to head east down through private lands to Bailey Avenue.

I headed down trails out of the park at an informal trailhead on Bernal Road. Though this will not be the final alignment, it is the practical gap to fill from Santa Teresa to Coyote Creek, so I walked the Bernal Road to the junction with the Coyote Creek section of the Ridge Trail, 6 km. This is not a pleasant walk; it is along a wide arterial road with heavy traffic and very poor crossings of side streets and freeway on-ramps and off-ramps. Presumably the Bailey Road alignment will be more pleasant.

This was a largely transit access trip. I took Capitol Corridor to San Jose, light rail to Ohlone/Chenowyth station, and bus 83 (weekday only) to the junction of Almaden Parkway and Harry Road, very close to the trailhead. On the east end, it was a fairly long walk to transit from the Coyote Creek junction, and due to a poor bus schedule I just walked all the way to the Santa Teresa light rail station. Then the reverse of all this back home.

Circumnavigation progress: 527 km of 612 km (380 miles), 86% of existing trail, plus 81 km of gaps.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157712067223436

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Ridge Trail: OuterSpatial app

The Bay Area Ridge Trail is now available in the OuterSpatial app. This app, available for iPhone and Android (no iPad version yet) shows trails for all areas where a partner agency has provided the trail alignments, which includes the Bay Area Ridge Trail. An ‘interactive’ map has been available for several years through the ridge trail website, but it was not interactive in the sense of being location aware. The new app is, it has the ‘you are here’ blue dot so you can follow trails as you go. The Trails tab highlights the ridge trail in yellow, while the Outing tab shows trails that have been entered as part of an outing or trip. I used the app on my last ridge trail hike, Crockett Hills and Fernandez Ranch, and found it quite useful. Where there are unsigned or not clearly signed junctions, the app can keep you on track. Though a significant portion of the trails have updated signing, mostly correct, other parts have old signing, or confusing signing, or missing signing.

A screen capture of the app is below. It shows the two segments that I did on my most recent trip. You can zoom in for a great deal of detail, including other trails, creeks, and ridge lines. Check it out!

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