This is a question that Tom Vanderbuilt has asked in his series of articles on the history of walking. I think the case of Millbrae station the answer is yes. As I pointed out in my thesis, the Station is so isolated by El Camino and Millbrea Ave. that one can more easily reach it by car even though its within a 1/2 mile of downtown Millbrea. Here’s the link to the series.
That said, walking to downtown from the neighborhoods to the west, is great! There are sidewalks, slow(ish) moving traffic, and many great destinations to walk to. The problem lies is getting the other 1/2 mile to the station. If one drives the .5 – 1 mile to the station and then rides BART or Caltrain, you’ve lost most of the air pollution savings because cars emit most of their pollution in the 1st 5 minutes of use. After 5 minutes, the warming up period, a car doesn’t emit all that much pollution. What if those folks who drive to the station could walk there? They would get to know their neighborhood better, spend money in downtown shops, and get a little excerise in the process. Let’s try and think differently about how we get around.
On an unrelated note, a friend who cycled the bay trail sent me a note about how close the station is to the trail, but that he did not know how close it was because there were no signs! There are lots of reasons the signs are not there the most important being that a route around the airport has not been planned yet. Currently one has to ride the surface streets through the airport and then connect with the separated bay trail on either side. Tons of people do this now and the city installed bike lanes on a few of the streets to make things better. But Millbrea station would be a great place to start or end one’s trip on the bay trail since its only about a 1/2 mile away. The big problem getting to and from the station is the Millbrea Ave. overpass at 101. Its really hairy b/c of the on-ramp/off-ramps are really difficult to navigate. Thanks Tom for the comment!