img_3708When Caltrain experiences a major service disruption, we know how confusing things can get for our passengers. No passenger wants to be stuck in a train for a significant amount of time, and that discomfort is only amplified when our riders don’t know when they’ll be on the move again or what has caused the major delay.

Caltrain is hoping to address this issue by posting a behind-the-scenes “Playbook” of all the inner workings that go on within the agency when a major service disruption occurs. Caltrain cannot promise that our passengers won’t be subject again to a severe service delay, but at least now we can provide some context into how these issues are resolved.

The playbook breaks down the service disruptions into three main categories—incident investigations, mechanical issues and police activities. For each category, an estimated time is given for when service could be restored, a parcel of information that provides insight into how these disruptions differ.

Incident investigations are the most serious disruption, and often entail fatalities on the right-of-way. These delays could take up to 1 hour and 45 minutes, and require the joint efforts of local police and fire departments, emergency medical services, the coroner and Caltrain rail personnel. There are a lot of moving parts, as described in the playbook, which is why service restorations can be lengthy processes.

Mechanical issues also require a concerted effort to fix, but these usually don’t disrupt service for as long as incident investigations. The Caltrain Playbook estimates that most problems can be fixed between five and 60 minutes. Roughly the same delay projections are given for police activities, which could shut down the railway from five to 45 minutes.

A full breakdown of each service disruption can be found on Caltrain Playbook web page, which is available at

Caltrain has a dedicated maintenance plan intended to keep its aging fleet in a state of good repair, and the agency is in the midst of completing a new fiber optic interoperability system that will improve service operations, but delays and disruptions are unfortunately an unavoidable part of life for commuters. While we will try and keep these incidents to their utmost minimum, the Caltrain Playbook can be a helpful resource for passengers when these situations occur.


Leave a Reply