Bay Area commute gears back up as employees return to offices

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As more Bay Area employees return to the office, you'll find changes to local transit systems.

Starting Monday, Caltrain is back to its regular 104-train schedule, after reducing service to 88 trains a day temporarily.

The agency announced the reduction March 2 for electrification signal work in San Mateo and Burlingame. The project was delayed because of the March 10 train collision.

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"We're going to do that again in May to keep that project moving along," Caltrain spokesperson Dan Lieberman said. "But for the time being, we've been seeing more and more people coming back to the system as a lot of people are getting back to work and COVID restrictions are released and there's more going on out and about."

Bay Area companies like Google, Apple and Twitter are welcoming back remote workers to the office this spring. Google is bringing back workers on a hybrid model this week.

ABC7 didn't see many riders at the Caltrain San Bruno station during the morning commute Monday.

Caltrain commuter Wael Khaddhee said he really hasn't seen more people riding the train.

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"I personally just think people are comfortable working from home now," Khaddhee said. "Especially in the tech business, it's a lot easier for people to work from home than to drive and go through traffic and everything."

Lieberman admits ridership is still down. "On weekdays, we're at about 20% of our pre-pandemic ridership numbers at the moment, but as offices keep opening up and as there's more summer activities, and spring and summer activities going on, we expect those numbers to continue to rise," Lieberman said.

Ferries are also still seeing a decrease in riders and implementing some changes.

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"Some ferry routes will see a five to 10 minutes schedule adjustment going into San Francisco Gate B from Larkspur, Tiburon and Sausalito," said Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz, of Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District. "Golden Gate ferry ridership was down about 60% compared to pre-pandemic ridership. But that's a large improvement from what we saw, even just a year ago or two years ago, when the pandemic first arrived in the Bay Area, where we saw ferry ridership virtually disappear. So we're pleased to see slow and steady ridership growth."

The agency said the schedule adjustments align better with ridership demands.

Cosulich-Schwartz said they expect ferry ridership will be higher Tuesday-Thursdays when it appears more companies will be bringing back employees.

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Caltrain is offering half off all fares this month, except the Go Pass program, and expanding service for events such as Giants games, where there will be special post-game service.

Caltrain service will be reduced May 2-20 for the electrification signal project and regular weekday service will continue May 23.

More info on ferry schedule adjustments here.

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