There were no injuries, in the train or the car. I was told that apparently someone tried to make a u-turn over the train tracks and got stuck. They must have seen the train coming, got out of the car in time and ran off. I don’t know how far over the tracks the car was when the train hit it.
The train jolted a bit but it was more scary than anything else. I was standing in the vestibule of the front car (the engine was at the back of the train) and I was talking to a conductor when apparently he heard the engineer say in the mic, that is situated near his collar, that we were about to hit a vehicle. I didn’t hear that of course, trains are loud and his mic’s speaker, that close to his ear, was turned down. However, instead of telling us this news or telling us to brace for impact, he just said “Oh my god,” and started jumping up and down trying to look out the window to see the car. He later told me he just got nervous and wasn’t thinking. Understandable.
I saw his behavior though and assumed something bad was going to happen so I grabbed onto the closest railing, tightly. I had a lot of thoughts going through my head in the next few seconds about what it could be that was about to happen or how to react if it’s a bad impact and if the train goes off the tracks and flips over on its side. Then we hit, I heard a boom and the train jostled a little. We quickly came to a halt via the brakes. No one was thrown from their seats and the train did not derail. The main lights were off and the dim emergency lights were on. The conductor then told us that we hit a car and to stay put. He went outside to check out the area. I looked in the back half the car, and there were about 50 people looking scared. I told them, “Apparently we hit a car,” so they might clam down knowing something else wasn’t about to happen.
It was scary but we were all fine. One thing that made it scary was that you assume you are safe on the train and this stuff wont happen. So when it does happen, even if its as minor as it was, its an impact and its real.
One of the Caltrain employees said on average a Caltrain hits something about once a month. One other said she has been in two collisions with cars. It made wonder, why so often? Apparently, much busier train systems, like around New York City, don’t hit cars, people, etc nearly as much. Is it because of the design of the stops? Is it that Caltrain’s tracks are less protected than other train systems? Is it that the people in the Bay Area don’t pay attention to their surroundings? Is it that we have more suicides?
As for suicides, getting on to other train systems’ tracks is much more difficult and I believe suicides are much less frequent because of that. As for poor design of Caltrain’s stations and tracks, it wouldn’t surprise me since Caltrain seems to be horribly mismanaged from their finances to bad ticketing machines to unrealistic holiday schedules (the first train that leaves San Francisco on holidays that many people still work, like President’s Day) is 8am, to even how the heat on the trains is overbearing and the thermostats don’t work.
What’s up with Caltrain? This is the train system that allows drinking on their trains. I think Caltrain needs to lose the party attitude and take their system more seriously. Its pretty obvious that the people running Caltrain don’t respect it. Even their station signage is so sparse and poorly done that they themselves have an option on they website for signage complaints (see pic below) although they apparently never fix it. One thing is for sure, they need a new Board and upper management.