By Alex Eisenhart | @AlexOnTransit

Caltrain surprised San Francisco residents with some surprise neighbors last month: goats. About 175 of them. Why? Gla-a-a-a-d you a-a-a-asked.

 

Part of maintaining the safety and functionality of the rail corridor involves periodically trimming back overgrown vegetation, something which has become increasingly relevant as the agency installs overhead contact wires along the tracks in preparation for the electrification of Caltrain.

Historically, Caltrain has relied on its contract operator to remove vegetation from agency property. However, some sections of land run along steep grades of hillside, making vegetation maintenance work difficult and hazardous. It’s also expensive. The cost of staff time combined with the use of gas-powered equipment and the need to transport remains to the dump all add up. Aside from the cost, it’s not a particularly eco-friendly process. So Caltrain decided to try something new.

Queue Green Goat Landscapers, a Santa Clara-based landscaping company hired to unleash a small herd of adorable goats to eat up the vegetation along a 50,000 sq. ft. area of Caltrain property in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley neighborhood. Contained inside a temporary electrified perimeter fence to protect from escape, the goats eat all the vegetation they can, 24/7.

This was Caltrain’s first time piloting the use of goats to do this work and the agency is planning to use them again for future vegetation management projects. The hope is that this solution can help make railroad operations safer, greener and more cost-efficient. So while this may have been the first time goats have made an appearance along the tracks, it may not be the la-a-a-a-ast.

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