Growing Movement To Save Caltrain From Potentially Devastating Cuts

Flickr Photo: ## Fisher##
Flickr Photo: ## Fisher##

The mobility of Caltrain’s 40,000 daily riders on the Peninsula and the South Bay could drastically suffer under deep service cuts being considered to close a $30 million budget gap, but a movement to get the commuter rail service agency out of the red and on a path toward long-term sustainability is gaining momentum.

“Everyone says it’s ironic, because it really is one of the best performing transit agencies in the whole Bay Area, but it’s the one potentially in the most trouble because we lack any dedicated funding,” said Yoriko Kishimoto, a Palo Alto councilmember and Friends of Caltrain organizer.

Last Friday, a summit brought together a number of transportation officials, advocates, neighborhood groups, riders and public officials hoping to rescue Caltrain. This Saturday, Friends of Caltrain, a “grassroots coalition of cities, neighborhood groups, employers, environmental groups, transit advocates and, most importantly, residents and transit riders” in the Bay Area, are helping to organize the “Save Our Caltrain!” Summit to address the agency’s lack of dedicated regional funding.

“Caltrain is threatened with bankruptcy, or just as bad, it could die a slow death by entering a downward spiral of reduced service and reduced ridership,” said Kishimoto. “Caltrain ridership is the equivalent of at least three full lanes of traffic on US 101…[It] is essential to the Peninsula’s quality of life, our commute alternatives, and economic vitality and the three counties must come together to work on solutions.”

The system relies heavily on support from the Metropolitan Transportation Commision and transit agencies in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties to help cover its costs each year. However, with California transit agencies struggling across the board, those contributions have been slashed.

Without further help from regional elected officials, Caltrain is looking at “18 months of pretty devastating cuts,” said Kishimoto.

Caltrain Board Chair and San Francisco Supervisor Sean Elsbernd told the Mercury News that service could be curtailed to minimum peak hours, with weekday trains reduced from 86 to 48 along with the elimination of weekend trains and all service between Gilroy and San Jose Diridon Station.

Those service cuts will likely impose a hardship on the many commuters, businesses, and institutions who depend heavily upon Caltrain for transportation, and Friends of Caltrain is “looking to create a political movement across the three counties to protect the regional transit that links them,” said Kishimoto.

Aside from looking at ways to help Caltrain stave off immediate cuts, the group is eyeing long-term revenue sources. High-speed rail funds, for example, could become one light at the end of the tunnel.

Despite political difficulties in the past, Kishimoto hopes “the time has come” to raise the gas tax. She thinks a Bay Area-wide one-cent increase approved by voters in November 2012 would be the most realistic option to substantially bolster Caltrain’s reliable revenue. The 1.3 billion gallons of gas sold every year in the three counties served by Caltrain alone would bring in $13 million, almost half of the current deficit, she said.

Additionally, a tri-county payroll tax of just $20 per year could bring in $35 million, well over this year’s entire deficit, according to Kishimoto. She also thinks congestion pricing and high-occupancy toll lanes are “seriously worth considering.” They would relieve congestion on the 101 freeway, increase Caltrain ridership, and provide drivers the option of paying a premium for a predictable commute, which she said is what most people are really interested in.

But pricing on the 101 freeway alone could have the undesirable effect of  “bumping” motor traffic onto local streets, and Kishimoto sees a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax “for wherever you’re travelling” as the ideal long-term solution.

Reduced reliability on Caltrain could potentially create a surge in driving and freeway congestion on the Peninsula as well as put a serious dent in the wallets of corridor residents who, according to TransForm Executive Director Stuart Cohen, own 0.7 fewer vehicles, emit 42 percent less greenhouse gases, and spend $550 less per year on transportation compared to the Bay Area average.

Stanford University student Tiffany Lau is able to travel independently without a car by depending on Caltrain. “[It]’s one of the best alternatives for getting around the Bay Area,” she said in a Friends of Caltrain press release. “It’s pretty easy to get from city to city.” In 2010, Stanford University reportedly relied on the trains to transport 19 percent of its employees.

UC Berkeley Professor of City and Regional Planning Elizabeth Deakin also pointed out the economic benefits of the compact, transit-oriented development that Caltrain encourages around its stations as well as the environmental and health benefits it provides.

“The idea that we would let a tremendous asset go to waste is a foolish mistake…the benefits certainly outweigh the costs,” she was quoted as saying in the Patch.

Given the immediate need to reduce driving to curb climate change and oil dependency, Kishimoto says Friends of Caltrain hopes “that we can turn this potential disaster into a transformation.”

“Save Our Caltrain!” Summit

Speakers at this weekend’s summit will include Executive Director of the Sierra Club Michael Brune, San Francisco Supervisor and Caltrain Joint Powers Board of Directors Chair Sean Elsbernd, as well as Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier.

“Speakers and panels in the morning will tell the Caltrain story and explore a range of options. The afternoon will be devoted to workshops to solicit the public’s innovative ideas on supporting Caltrain at this time of general fiscal crisis.”

When: Saturday, January 29, 2011, 8:30 am to 2:30 pm.

Where: SamTrans Auditorium, 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos (near Caltrain).

Sign up:

  • JD

    I 100% agree that we must raise the gas tax and use it to pay for public transit, including Caltrain. Cars have been unfairly subsidized by the government at the expense of all other forms of transit (all of which are more efficient and better for our health and that of the environment) for far too long.

    Since the financial crisis of the past few years, everywhere public transit service has been cut and/or fares raised. Meanwhile, the gas tax has remained untouched for nearly two decades. Why is it that, when things get tough, the first thing on the chopping block is public transit? That should be the *last* thing on the chopping block, given that it is the most efficient form of transit, the easiest on the environment, and the cheapest so that all classes of people can take it. It is insane that those who routinely take public transit have to make these huge sacrifices while car drivers are essentially untouched.

    Good public transit should be one of the top priorities of all city governments. It is a shame to see the governments (and people who support that governments) of the Peninsula not realize this and how it adversely affects themselves to cut Caltrain funding. They are only shooting themselves in the foot.

    But it is truly great to see all this sudden momentum to save Caltrain … though it’s amazing to me that we wait so last minute to realize how important it is.

    What Caltrain must *not* do is kill non-commute hour service. Sure, short-term it saves money, but long-term it is a death sentence. That will be the beginning of a slow spiral to guaranteed disfunctionality and loss of critical ridership. It will be really disappointing if Caltrain does this, as it’s yet another public transit agency that doesn’t understand that the key to survival is improving service and reliability, not cutting it.

    In the short-term, the county governments of the Peninsula must reinstate their funding for Caltrain. Long-term, the gas tax needs to go up and a chunk of that money funneled to Caltrain to not only keep it at it’s current level of service, but improve it.

  • Ben

    I don’t understand why understand why no one ever talks about folding transit agencies into each other. We have 22 different transit agencies in the Bay Area, each with different hierarchical structures and high-level (and well-paid) personnel who don’t communicate nearly as much as they should and who are constantly fighting each other for funding.

    This seems like the perfect opportunity to me for Caltrain to be folded into BART – the other commuter rail system operating in San Francisco – so we can finally start connecting these systems, consolidating their leadership, and bringing in a more cohesive payment system.

    In the short term, this does not mean fundamentally changing the system by installing new track, trains, or routes. It could be as simple as slapping a BART logo on Caltrain and FINALLY getting these agencies TALKING to each other!

  • Bob Davis

    Various public entities have been crying “We’re broke!” and yet have kept running for so long that the citizens have tended to ignore the cries for help, thinking, “No worries, they’ve always ‘muddled through’ in the past and this time is no exception.” Back in 1981, I rode Amtrak from Pasadena to New York, because the Reagan Administration (David Stockman in particular) was threatening to shut the national passenger train system down. It was a good trip, and I did ride some electric railways that were about to replace funky old cars with shiny new (but not as interesting) cars, but here we are 30 years later, and Amtrak is still in business. Is today’s situation like the “Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf'”, or are we really in deep trouble this time? I still remember the story from the late 60’s or early 70’s about a Southern Pacific official saying that the company could buy every commuter a Volkswagen for less than the company was losing on its “commute” service, and of course SP finally sold the operation to what is now Caltrain. (presumably with a sigh of relief at One Market Street.)

  • Shutting down Caltrain on weekends will do wonders for Giants game day. There is simply not enough road or parking capacity to take all those people via the auto.

    As for “crying wolf” – most agencies have been on a death spiral path, and in many cases have been cut back to the point that they are no longer useful to most people as an alternative to the car. Yes we still “have ” Caltrain, but it is not able to provide the service it needs to move the many many more people that will be living here in the coming years. Muni has the same problem (thanks to state cuts that crippled it’s ability to implement a comprehensive upgrade), and SamTrans is primarily a commuter service and isn’t a comprehensive system that gets people out of their cars in Peninsula cities.

    It’s lovely to think we can have Santa Claus politics, whereby we have no taxes and no fares and magically have the kind of service we need in the second decade of the 21st century. It is also a complete fallacy to think the Santa Claus approach is viable or sustainable.

  • Lean Clatrain

    A $30M budget cut is the best thing that can happen to Caltrain, it will be a forcing factor.
    Caltrain is suffering from chronic inefficiencies in the way it is run
    Outside of peak hours, Caltrain runs nearly empty. Late night trains run with only a handful of people on board.
    Caltrain has an unsustainable expense structure
    We need efficient public transportation and that is not Caltrain
    Caltrain is like a FEMA trailer, a temporary fix that should not get permanent funding
    Short term solution: Cut Caltrain to peak hours only
    Long term: BART down the peninsula

  • GoGregorio

    If a $.01 increase in the gas tax will generate $13 million, then raise the gas tax by $.05, at least. Get it at least high enough so that drivers will feel it a little, and a few might switch over to Caltrain. That should also generate closer to $50 million, which might give Caltrain a bit of a buffer to run better service.

    Of course, I also know what happens when you give transit agencies a buffer. Instead of using that extra $20 million to improve service, it just magically disappears and everyone in upper management gets a raise! I’m under no delusion that Caltrain will put an additional $20 million to good use, but I still think it would be worth it. Shoot, raise the gas tax by $.15 and you might get a few more grade seperations in no time.

  • GoGregorio

    Mr. Clatrain:

    While I don’t doubt that Caltrain probably could still lean a bit, I think your characterization is pretty false as a whole. BART runs at similar efficiency to Caltrain, so replacing Caltrain with BART wouldn’t really be an improvement in that area. Also, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties don’t pay into the traditional BART District tax, which means you wouldn’t come across any extra funding.

    Your assertion that Caltrain should reduce to peak-only service is completely unsustainable. It still leaves thousands of riders stranded, and doesn’t allow anyone to have any flexibility in their schedule. It would be a death spiral.

  • H

    Note from the irony department: Friends of Caltrain meeting begins at 8:30 a.m., but the first southbound Saturday AM caltrain arrives in San Carlos at 9:01 a.m. Apparently “friends of Caltrain” and “riders of Caltrain” are mutually exclusive constituencies?

  • John Murphy

    @GoGregorio while BART runs at a similar farebox recovery RATIO to Caltrain, it has a higher overall expense level, so the overall dollar subsidy is higher. And the BART recovery ratio is because the highly ridden urban core sections (SF, Oakland, Berkeley) subsidize the more expensive and less ridden spurs. A Peninsula spur would lower the overall BART recovery ratio, all other things being equal.

  • The absurdity of this situation is beyond comprehension.

    There is a $30 Million deficit. Meanwhile, Caltrain is spending $165 Million to put in three grade separations and elevate the San Bruno Station

    Grade separations are certainly a helpful thing. But what irks me is this. According to the 2010 ridership stats San Bruno station is used by ~380 riders daily. Meanwhile Caltrain cancelled trains 236, 237, 256, and 257 – trains that carried roughly 1100 passengers daily. Why is it that the riders of those trains are expected to use a different train, but the people of San Bruno – who have voted against Caltrain with their feet – are not expected to use a different station? Millbrae Caltrain/BART is 2 miles from San Bruno station and has a lot of parking. San Bruno BART is 1 mile away from San Bruno station.

    Eliminate stations – not trains. Run faster trains, attract more riders – the same fact sheet indicates that the average Caltrain trip is twenty miles. Running with fewer stops – permanently – provides a superior service on the whole that will attract more riders and removes the cost of maintaining, upgrading, and rebuilding the underutilized stations.

    This is already proven – since the introduction of limited and bullet service, the stations with bullet service have seen an increase in usage, and the ones without have had decrease in service – it is not far fetched to conclude that the people living near Hayward Park (current ridership 227 per day) simply started using Hillsdale instead – the extra time to the train more than made up for by a faster trip to their destination.

    Of course, we then get into the issue of “Capital vs Operating” budgets. If Mike Scanlon is really worth $350,000 per year, he can work on solving that problem. He has the access – US Congresswomen, Mayors, and CA assemblymen are showing up to these meetings.

    On another note, SamTrans – also run by Mike Scanlon – has reduced funding to Caltrain last year and is threatening another reduction. This for service that is inferior and in many ways duplicative to Caltrain and BART. Why? Occam’s razor says – if SamTrans funding were cut, there would be no “Friends of SamTrans” with Congresswomen and CEOs showing up to save the system. Given the choice of cutting the budget of SamTrans and losing the money for good, or cutting Caltrain and enlisting high-powered allies to get more money – Scanlon made the obvious choice, except from the standpoint of the ridership.

  • Alai

    I’ve heard people say “replace Caltrain with BART” a number of times. Do they mean “have BART take over CalTrain operations”? Or do they mean “shut down Caltrain and build an extension of BART, replacing the Caltrain infrastructure”?

  • @Alai – they mean “shut down Caltrain and build an extension of BART, replacing the Caltrain infrastructure”?

    Which means they don’t know much about the issue.

    “BART runs faster” – not true. Caltrain has passing tracks and can run expresses, not limited by 4 spurs going onto one mainline. Electrification would make Caltrain even faster.
    “BART runs more trains” – all that takes is money, it is not inherent to “regular choo-choos”
    “BART doesn’t kill people” – not true, and nominal dollars would improve Caltrain’s record in that department.

    The nimbys on the Peninsula would not accept elevated BART on the Caltrain ROW, meaning that an implementation would be ridiculously expensive.

  • BART also has no chance of being compatible with future HSR. At least Caltrain does have the chance of sharing facilities with HSR and the synergy provides more convenient and less costly transportation.

    As for raising the gasoline tax : this is a fair long delayed change. It sends the correct feedback signal to transportation decisions. Unfortunately though it is one of politics’s third rails. Many voters are extremely sensitive to gasoline prices and will cry bloody murder even for a modest increase. So I wouldn’t expect a gas tax increase until after the 2012 elections.

  • Why can’t they run special evening trains on Giants game days only? Their ridership is comparable if not high than commute trains. I hate to see the service level go down. But if a cut is inevitable, some trains clearly serve lot more people than others.

  • Morton


    CalTrain do run special trains for sports events.

    A CalTrain from San Jose is always timed to catch the end of Sharks games.

    And there is a race track with special trains.

  • jd


    Agreed. But if they also run one late night “sweeper” train around 10pm, they will get just as many people. Same if they run only a couple in the afternoons. And these will at least be serving the regular commuters who are a much larger part of Caltrain’s revenue.

  • To the person who was concerned about coordinating start time with Caltrain schedule: Registration starts at 8:30 but the summit itself will not start until a few minutes after 9 am. Come join us!

    Thanks everyone for your support, Yoriko

  • Let me get this straight.

    The Palo Alto City Council, on which Ms. Kishimoto serves, declares that it doesn’t want a high-speed rail station (guaranteeing that there will be no local benefit to this state initiative), then votes 9-0 to sue the HSR authority. Peninsula cities form an umbrella organization, the Peninsula Cities Consortium, to fight HSR tooth and nail.

    But when Caltrain’s deficit problems balloon, those same Peninsula cities expect the entire Bay Area to pony up to save their beloved trains. A gas tax, a payroll tax, a vehicle-mile tax — it’s all on the table, all earmarked for Caltrain. Not once are the other beleaguered Bay Area transit agencies mentioned. It is, as always, all about the Peninsula.

    A tax for Caltrain? No way.

  • @Morton –

    You have pontificated a bit with your expertise. It does not help your credibility when you say “And there is a race track with special trains” – when the race track was torn down 4 years ago.

  • mike –

    San Francisco benefits more from Caltrain than the Peninsula… it’s not even close.

  • Andy Chow

    I suggest “mike of concrete” not to make unsubstantiated claims and smear Yoriko Kishimoto.

    The Friends of Caltrain coalition includes members with varying positions on the high speed rail issue. We all recognize that Caltrain’s future is critical and that additional funding is needed regardless of the outcomes on high speed rail. If you think high speed rail is good, attacking Caltrain because of Yoriko is childish and counter-productive.

    I support high speed rail but I am opposed to the idea that if you support HSR then you must support all work the HSR consultants are proposing. The cities are basically reacting to the specific proposals and requirements set by the agency, which may or may not be justified. HSRA is asking the cities to basically put large parking garages (like what you see in Millbrae) for a stop, which is not something the cities would be eager to have.

    No. The cities are not asking the entire Bay Area for the train. San Francisco, the Peninsula, and San Jose would contribute proportionately for the train, as they have always been for years. All the cities along the line would be benefited from the train. There’s no concrete funding proposals at this point, and it would be premature to suggest that all the funding would go to Caltrain. Also if the new funding would reduce or eliminate contribution from local transit agencies, then Muni, SamTrans, and VTA all benefit.

    Factual? heavy? solid? Give me a break!

  • Alai

    Caltrain has some pretty extensive stats on their website:

    Commuter-hour trips make up the large majority of trips, as you’d expect, and the division between northbound and southbound commuters is 60/40. I take this to mean that the peninsula benefits more from Caltrain, since it makes living there more attractive, but then I guess it works for SF too, as it makes establishing a business there more convenient.

  • > Short term solution: Cut Caltrain to peak hours only

    Penny wise.

    > Long term: BART down the peninsula

    Pound foolish.

  • Morton


    I’m not a racing fan, so excuse my not being up to date.

    But the principle I was making remains – CalTrain has a record of accomodating sports and special events.

    Don’t they run special trains to Gilroy for the Garlic festival? Or was that stopped 4 years ago as well?

    Many commuter rail lines only run in rush hours, like the one from Stockton to San Jose. I believe the local service that runs up to Sac is also commuter-focused. If the service can be cut back to something that makes the service viable, then that’s what we should do.

    But ultimately CalTrain is over-engineered for the purpose. And has too many small stops. Even the so-called “Bullet” train only averages about 40 mph.

  • JD

    Morton wrote: “Many commuter rail lines only run in rush hours, like the one from Stockton to San Jose. I believe the local service that runs up to Sac is also commuter-focused. If the service can be cut back to something that makes the service viable, then that’s what we should do.”

    This isn’t the problem: Caltrain is as viable (if not more) as any other public transit system, commuter or not. The only thing that sets it apart is it doesn’t have a dedicated source of funding. Caltrain’s model doesn’t need to be changed: it has done phenomenally well since the introduction of the baby bullets. You couldn’t ask for much better ridership gains on any public transit system. The have really dialed in their schedule and stations over the years. Sure, there are still some tweaks that could be made, but the point is simply that Caltrain works really well and it simply needs to be appreciated for that and hence funded properly. There is no reason to go around changing up the whole way it has operated when it just needs the governments of the area to support it like they have done in the past. The solution here is not to change the basic operation of Caltrain (other than tweaks), but to give it the dedicated funding it deserves.

  • Andy Chow

    Caltrain’s trouble has to do with a sudden drop of operating subsidy, not a sudden drop of ridership and/or fare revenue. Caltrain ridership and farebox recovery already outperforms local transit.

    Caltrain’s operating model is a mixed of local (what you would expect from light rail or something like BART) and express. Caltrain has the ability to operate more trains than it is today. The density and number of destinations along the Peninsula justify off-peak service, and perhaps more so than some local transit.

    VTA for example runs light rail 7 days a week between downtown San Jose and Mountain View, via a corridor that virtually has no ridership demand on weekends. Does funding to run light rail every half hour through empty office parks more important than funding local Caltrain service through which some of the stations in Santa Clara County have quite large ridership (like Sunnyvale).

    The idea of cutting Caltrain and extend BART down is nothing but inflicting pain on commuters on the corridor. BART is more expensive to build and operate. So for the same subsidy to get 15 min BART service you can buy 15 min Caltrain service. Caltrain does not run more frequently off peak is because of the lack of dedicated funding. BART gets a 1/2 cent sales tax from the three BART counties directly without having to compete with local transit.

    If somehow we are willing to pay a 1/2 cent sales tax for a train, we can get immediate results with less pain by running more Caltrain and upgrade it overtime without having to eliminate any service, which you can never do with BART. We could even put BART logos and integrate the fares (which is possible with Clipper).

  • @Morton – the Gilroy Garlic train is no more. Caltrain has been pretty poor at accommodating special events, frankly. They don’t run extra or express trains on the weekends despite Giants games – this might change (if they don’t kill the pilot) but only because the ridership put a burr in their saddle. They do run extra service for the Bay to Breakers including a non-stop train from Santa Clara (SCU is a huge B2B contingent). They occasionally figure out there is a concert at ATT Park and add service.

    But there are also dismal failures. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Octoberfest, and the Love Parade fell on the same day 3 years running, and Caltrain melted down each time, overfilling and running the train express from mid-peninsula simply because the train could not accommodate more riders.

    @Alai – if Caltrain did not exist, we would have parking issues downtown that would be legendary. While there is service on BART from Millbrae to downtown that could alleviate this, those parking garages would overfill, and BART from Millbrae to downtown is 40 minutes – Caltrain is 15 minutes.

  • Morton

    JD, I’m not familiar with the difference in how CalTrain is funded vis-a-vis other local transit systems.

    But the money has to be found somewhere and if the voters won’t agree to it, then what’s is to be done. Budgets are hurting at all levels of government, so this couldn’t really be a worse time to get out the begging bowl.

  • Martin

    Shutting down Caltrain to only peak commute hours, is a good thing. Its time that Caltrain is run like any other business. When is the last time that any of us flew on a half-empty airplane.

    Use the “old diesel 5-car w/locomotive” configurations for peak commute hours, and save the money for a couple DMUs later down the road. when enough money is saved, buy the DMUs, and pick up the minimal off-hour traffic.

  • Morton


    Yes, the issue here seems fairly simple.

    If public money can be found to subsidize the current full service, i.e. if the voters and taxpayers of these counties are willing to foot the bill, then keep CalTrain as it is.

    But if, as surely seems the case, there isn’t the money to fund this as a priority over other needs then just run it between, say, 6 and 10 in the morning, and 4 and 8 at night, Monday to Friday only. You’d probably get 80% of the current revenue and traffic for a fraction of the current costs.

  • 1%, not 1 cent gas tax

    Instead of a fixed 1 cent gas tax that won’t go up with the price of fuel and inflation, and may decrease in total revenues as vehicle miles traveled decline, a 1% gas tax would provide increasing revenue in time as peak oil drives gas prices skyward.

    Also, until Caltrain is fully electrified, having a revenue stream that matches the variability of its cost stream in terms of diesel fuel would help stabilize the agency’s finances.

    Note to the “When is the last time that any of us flew on a half-empty airplane”: actually, it happens all the time. If for-profit airlines recognize that they have to cross-subsidize some slightly unprofitable midday or late evening flights in order to make super profits on full peak flights, there’s no reason why Caltrain should slash its service into a ridership death spiral.

  • @Morton – if Caltrain ran from 6-10 and 4-8, it would get far less than 80% of the current revenue. If I can’t rely on there being a train if I get a call from my wife saying “I need you to come home” at 2 PM, or there being a train at 9 PM when there is a hotspot at the office, then I can’t take the train at all.

    We could save a lot of money by shutting down 101 from 10 AM to 4 PM. Why not advocate that? Because it – like your proposal above – is nonsensical.

  • Morton


    If rush-hour only trains don’t work in the way you suggest then why do we do that on the Gilroy stretch?

    Why do the Stockton to San Jose trains only run rush hour?

    Why do the Sacramento local trains only run that way?

    Why do the baby bullets only run that way?

    Why do the X express muni buses only work that way?

    For an emergency, there is SamTrans or a cab. Or should the taxpayers pay extra millions in tax just in case your wife forgets her housekeys while out to lunch or getting her nails done?

  • Sigh… why do I bother

    If rush-hour only trains don’t work in the way you suggest then why do we do that on the Gilroy stretch?

    –> I don’t know why, but suffice to say the ridership is crap and Gilroy is the first part of the service on the chopping block.

    Why do the Stockton to San Jose trains only run rush hour?

    –> Lie

    Why do the Sacramento local trains only run that way?

    –> Lie

    Why do the baby bullets only run that way?

    –> Because Caltrain is a bunch of morons. All trains should be limited.

    Why do the X express muni buses only work that way?

    –> See abobe

    For an emergency, there is SamTrans or a cab. Or should the taxpayers pay extra millions in tax just in case your wife forgets her housekeys while out to lunch or getting her nails done?

    –> Thanks Sarah Palin.

  • Morton

    Sigh, why do I bother?

    No John Murphy, you’re lying, here is the ACE schedule clearly showing it’s a rush hour ONLY schedule:

    No John Murphy, you’re lying, here is the SAC schedule clearly showing it’s a rush hour ONLY schedule:

    You admit Gilroy serice is rush hour only.

    You admit baby bullet is a rush hour only service.

    You admit muni X express services are a rush hour only servcie.

    And yet you think rush hour services are not viable.

    How, exactly?

    And why lie?

  • jd

    Martin wrote: “But if, as surely seems the case, there isn’t the money to fund this as a priority over other needs then just run it between, say, 6 and 10 in the morning, and 4 and 8 at night, Monday to Friday only. You’d probably get 80% of the current revenue and traffic for a fraction of the current costs.”

    First, as John Murphy said, you’ll lose more people than 20% of the ridership. The reality is, many people, especially since this is Silicon Valley with non-standard work hours, are on the train outside rush hour as part of their normal commute. Just today for example, the train leaving SF at 10:07 am was packed. Further, most people have to take the train outside of commute hours at some point. Maybe you have to stay late at work for some unanticipated reason, maybe you have to go to the doctor in the morning, maybe you have a hobby that meets after work down by your workplace and you take a late night train home, etc. …. But the point is, if there are days when you can’t be sure you’ll be on it during rush hour, you simply won’t take the train. This happens to most people enough that the train stops becoming an option.

    Further, let’s say it is only a 20% drop in ridership. Well, Caltrain’s budget is $100 million, so reducing your costs by 30% ($30 million out of $100 million) and losing about 20% of your ridership isn’t a very good deal, certainly not at all the “fraction of current costs” you mentioned. That’s certainly not going to be enough to make up their budget deficit, and all they’ve done is put the system into a catch-22 death spiral where people stop taking it because of the service cuts, which means more service cuts, which means less people take it, etc.

    Finally, a lot of people compare Caltrain to other commute rail systems. Though it technically is a commuter rail, in reality it is a de facto subway system that runs down the “city” of Silicon Valley. People are getting on and off it all over the place and there isn’t one preferred direction: it’s nearly 50-50 between people commuting from the Peninsula to work in SF and people commuting from SF to work on the Peninsula. It is a very different beast between the typical commuter rail systems. This is important to keep in mind.

  • Al

    I’m going to disagree here and say that a commuter-hours only Caltrain is viable, though it is not desirable. I don’t use Caltrain for commuting, but I have used it a number of times to travel to San Jose to visit friends. In a very real sense, the existence of reliable Caltrain service is what allows me to get by without a car, and I think it’s important to maintain that link for the 30% of households in SF who don’t have cars.

    If people can live without cars, that’s traffic you don’t have to deal with– not just on the freeway, but on your local roads and in the supermarket parking lot. If people have to get cars, they’ll end up using them– all the time.


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Photo: sfbike With Caltrain facing a $2.3 million deficit, and its governing board considering service cuts and fare hikes, bicycle advocates from three Bay Area counties who have been leading the call for more bicycle capacity have calculated that the commuter rail line could stave off reductions if it would just accommodate the increasing demand […]

Should Caltrain Add Bathrooms On-Board or at Its Stations?

On-board restrooms could be cut from Caltrain’s electric trains after the agency’s Board of Directors rejected a proposal to include one bathroom on every six-car train last month. The agency is exploring the costs of adding bathrooms, and while some riders say they’re crucial, there’s little support from board members or disability advocates. The Americans with Disabilities Act “is a very […]

Clipper Card Upgrade Could Bring Seamless Regional Travel, Or Not

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission will soon renew its contract for Clipper, the Bay Area’s “all-in-one transit card.” Transit advocates are urging MTC to use the opportunity to create a more seamless fare system, and remove barriers that could allow Clipper payments on both the region’s transit agencies and “first-and-last-mile” trip services. Transit riders can currently […]
Image: Seamless Bay Area

Advocacy Group Fights to Put the Transit Customer First

Note: Metropolitan Shuttle, a leader in bus shuttle rentals, regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog Los Angeles. Unless noted in the story, Metropolitan Shuttle is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content. Imagine if the Bay Area’s 27 transit agencies took the same tickets, billed passengers by the same rate for distance traveled, and all […]

Northern California High-Speed Rail Scoping Meeting

Monday evening the California High Speed Rail Authority, in conjunction with Caltrain, held a scoping meeting at the William J. Rutter Center at UCSF in Mission Bay. They answered public questions and took comment on plans to electrify Caltrain and bring high-speed trains from Bakersfield to San Francisco by 2029. Streetsblog readers will recall that […]