by Dan Lieberman, @LiebermanTweets
Single-tracking. It’s a term we use a lot at Caltrain these days, and as people return to our system, we figured we’d take the opportunity to explain it to everyone, whether you’re riding for the first time or if you’ve been here for years and were too embarrassed to ask.
As our riders are well aware, Caltrain has two main tracks, Main Track 1, which goes north and Main Track 2, which goes south. Quite simply, single-tracking is when we run both northbound and southbound trains on a single track in a particular section of the corridor. This could mean that the train you’re wanting to catch may actually be on a different platform than usual.
As a rider, this means you need to pay attention to make sure you’re aware of how single-tracking could affect your commute. Caltrain makes announcements about when single tracking is happening via its social media channels, and on the platform through visual and audible announcements. So keep your eyes and ears open for the latest information about which platform your train will be arriving on. Also, if the platform seems strangely empty compared to how it normally looks, don’t be afraid to ask other riders just to make sure you’re in the right place. Under normal conditions, the bay side of the tracks will be heading north while the hill side goes south (that’s for everyone that struggles with finding which way north and south are), but single-tracking is the one thing that can throw that off.
The most common reason for single-tracking is ongoing construction, and with the electrification of the system happening as we speak, it will be a common practice until we have electrified trains providing a new and improved service in 2024. However, while those periods of single-tracking are generally predictable, it can also occur due to accidents, weather conditions, reports of suspicious activity, or any number of surprise occurrences.
There’s a lot of exciting work going on at Caltrain to make the service we provide better for everyone. Single-tracking is a side effect of that process, but we will do everything we can to minimize disruption to you and your commute. And now that you know all there is to know about single-tracking, you should have no problem catching your train at the right place every time.