"BART's latest extension, to San Francisco's airport, has had disappointing ridership compared with projections -- but even so, it's carrying nearly as many riders per day as the whole Caltrain line from Gilroy to San Francisco."
This is a big fat lie that the Congress deserves to know.
You can see for yourself here:
SamTrans ridership report on BART - read page 4
Caltrain ridership report - read page 3
For a fair comparison, you should also subtract Colma from the total ridership without Daly City, since the Colma station has been in operation since 1996, 7 years earlier than the entire SFO extension. Also, number of including Daly City is not comparible since the Daly City station has been in operation for over 30 years and half of the service area around the station belongs to San Francisco.
21,638 BART extension (SSF, SB, SFIA, Millbrae)
The number is not even close, even with Colma added.
Also, the BART numbers most likely include boarding and exiting. It would be fair if riders are coming from stations outside the county, which is primarily the case, but riders traveling within the county would get double counted.
As much as the Mercury News editors and Guardino/SVLG like to put it, the issue is not about vision, but how to get to the vision. These folks don't have enough experience with mass transit to know what is really needed. They could sit in their cars for 15 to 30 years for a "vision" to be realized, and afterwards they'll still be stuck in their cars.
People who ride transit today cannot afford to wait 15-30 years. If a 10% improvement in the quality of service could be delivered next year, and for years after that until the "vision" realized, they'll take that instead. Caltrain is basically the latter, an incremental improvement to become a rapid transit system.
Looking back in the ridership numbers. Caltrain was able to deliver a 12% ridership increase in one year in a slumping economy without additional operating subsidy. BART could not have delivered that.