How to spice up the Caltrain experience

Oct. 10, 2017, 6:52 a.m.

While a trip on the Caltrain is generally an agreeable endeavor, I can’t help but think that just a few adjustments could make each ride a little zestier. My undergraduate years here on The Farm have been heavily influenced by my voyages through the Bay Area without a car, and I hope that the Caltrain will continue to be of use to Stanford students for decades to come. But in this age of brand awareness, everything has to be an “experience.” So with this in mind, I hereby provide four unsolicited suggestions for enhancing a passenger’s interaction with this commuter rail line.

  1. Add wishing wells and/or slot machines to each station. When I was a kid, receiving a Sacagawea dollar coin or a two-dollar bill felt like winning the lottery. But over time, I realized that those gifts, especially the coins, weren’t nearly as unique as I believed them to be. Imagine my dismay when my first Caltrain ticket machine transaction resulted in nine dollars in coins for change! While that addition of weight to my wallet surely led to the impressive muscle mass I currently possess, I wouldn’t be opposed to some creative options for shedding one’s extra change. A wishing well could dramatically enhance each passenger’s train ride, romantic life and/or GPA, and a slot machine would provide young, inexperienced college students with a safe introduction to gambling.
  2. Hire actors to engage in mid-ride historical reenactments. In the unlikely event that your phone dies and you forget to bring an alternate form of stimulation, the Caltrain should provide live entertainment for its passengers. The best case scenario would probably involve each car embodying a specific culture or time period in history, allowing each rider to hop from era to era in an experience reminiscent of “Night at the Museum.” Imagine being offered peeled grapes from the toga-clad emperors of Ancient Rome or shimmying through the Gatsby-esque speakeasies of New York in the Roaring Twenties, all while zipping through the Peninsula at more than 70 miles per hour. Each carriage would provide the appropriate food, music and costume options for its respective time period.
  3. Stage a life-size game of Clue. I admit, this might be confusing to those taking shorter rides, but the passion and suspense of a fictional murder mystery would beat covert people-watching any day.
  4. Install moving walkways for the active multitaskers of the Bay Area. Unlike the similar contraptions intended to help airport passengers arrive at their gates more quickly, the Caltrain’s iteration would work in reverse, allowing riders to walk in place for a convenient workout. Of course, they could just replace the rows of seats with individual treadmills, but the idea of a large group of people on one moving walkway making no visible progress forward sounds much more entertaining to watch.


Contact Georgina Grant at gagrant ‘at’

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