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The Rail World

By Andrew MacFarland

Caltrain isn't cheap. It costs $5.25 to travel one-way from San Jose to San Francisco during peak travel times. And it isn't exactly fast. The 47.5-mile trip takes about 90 minutes. But it's clean, the conductors are friendly, and it beats the hell out of sitting in the Peninsula's gridlock. For Caltrain virgins, here is some essential insider dope.

Frank Lloyd Wright--known for, among other things, designing furniture that looked far better than it felt, would be proud of Caltrain's seating. The bench seats downstairs and the bucket seats upstairs aren't really made for the gentle lazy-S shape of the human spine. Instead, the attractive brown and burnt-orange seats form a rather severe right angle. The best way to save your spine is by employing a back support of some sort. If you don't mind the snickers of fellow riders, buy an actual lumbar support at the drugstore and carry it with you. If you want to be subtle about it, just roll up a jacket and use it. If you're too cool for this sort of thing, get yourself a good chiropractor because you're gonna need one.

Cell phones have, of course, arrived on Caltrain (800.660.4287; www.caltrain.com), shattering the once blissful silence of the 7:30am express. Feel free to give the pathetic, self-important losers who make calls the evil eye, but a pair of earplugs will give you more satisfaction.

Don't humiliate yourself by asking everyone you see where to buy a ticket. Conductors on the train will be happy to take your cash, as will clerks at the few staffed Caltrain stations. Bikes are allowed in the car with the yellow decal. (The bike cars often have their own special odor.)

Finally, unless you really, really, really have to go, avoid the train restroom. It is inevitably--how shall we say--moist inside, and it makes an airplane bathroom seem spacious and well kept by comparison.



Streamlined Living: Pare down and live simply.

Put Up Yer Dukes: Don't get mad, get even.

Cruising: Transit made simple.
    Plug In Your Car
    Get Out Of Jail Free
    Moot Commute

Soul Relief: Free your inner self.

Get in on the Gold Rush: Grab a fistful of cash and join the party.

Domestic Bliss: Make your house into a home.


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From the March 16-22, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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