Caltrain may cut weekend service, raise fares

Budget troubles force transit company to consider changes

Caltrain announced possible service and fare changes to be implemented as early as October.

At a board of directors meeting last Thursday, chief operating officer Chuck Harvey presented possibilities necessitated by the budget challenge the transit agency is facing, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said Friday.

The changes discussed were eliminating all weekend service, reducing midday service, increasing both zone and base fare by 25 cents each, and levying a surcharge on bicyclists.

"We have to look for ways to close the budget shortfall," Dunn said, noting that the agency has been impacted by the budget challenges facing partner agencies, which include the city and county of San Francisco, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and San Mateo County Transit District.

"Each are grappling with budget challenges because they're not going to receive state transit assistance funds," Dunn said.

Dunn said the measures would help Caltrain balance its budget. The agency is facing a $10.1 million budget deficit for the 2010 fiscal year.

Dunn said Caltrain estimates it would save about $2 million by eliminating all weekend service. Reducing midday service from a half-hourly basis to an hourly basis would save the agency about $2.5 million.

A 25-cent base fare hike would bring in about $1.5 million and a 25-cent per-zone increase would generate about $2.2 million, Dunn said. The increase of both fares would generate about $3.7 million.

Ridership is projected to be impacted, Dunn said. Caltrain estimated losing 1 million annual rides with the elimination of weekend service, and between 100,000 to 200,000 annual rides by cutting midday service.

The increase of the base fare would lead to the loss of an estimated 400,000 annual rides, and raising the zone fare would lose 600,000 annual rides. The implementation of both fare increases would cause Caltrain to lose about 1 million riders on an annual basis.

Dunn said three community meetings will be held this month to receive feedback on the measures under consideration.

The board also set two public hearings, both of which will be held at the next Caltrain board meeting on June 4, during which -- in addition to discussing the possible changes -- the board will declare a state of fiscal emergency as it anticipates running out of money within the year. The board is scheduled to take action on the measures on July 2.

In January, Caltrain hiked the base fare by 25 cents in response to the high cost of diesel fuel.


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Posted by phm
a resident of The Crossings
on May 12, 2009 at 2:36 pm

According to SJMN front page Friday May 8, the Metropolitan Transit Commission is providing I forget how much to support BART to San Jose based on BART and VTA's maybe-money from future toll roads and fees from solo drivers to use the HOV lanes, and from a federal agency who has repeatedly put the project on its "Not Recommended" list. Earliest completion date 2025. Yet Caltrain, here today, is so broke it can't run the minimum number of trains to make it worthwhile. There's something seriously wrong here.

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Posted by Valerie
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 12, 2009 at 4:16 pm

We use Caltrain all the time to go to San Jose and San Francisco, as it's a great way to avoid driving and not worry about parking or drunk drivers on the road. Elimination of weekend service would eliminate our ridership, for sure.

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Posted by Phil
a resident of The Crossings
on May 13, 2009 at 2:37 pm

You've got a trainload full of thirsty commuters and no coffee. Have Starbucks/Pete's/etc bid for the rights to sell coffee/drinks on the trains.

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Posted by TJ
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 13, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Maybe they should reconsider how cheaply they provide passes to local businesses, which then pass them on to employees. They cost much less than what the general public pays and probably represent a major portion of ridership. Don't cut service, equalize the cost for everyone.

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Posted by Ivan
a resident of Castro City
on May 13, 2009 at 6:14 pm

It is good to know that Caltrain will not run on Weekends: I should find an apartment in San Francisco and commute to work as without a car I'd be stuck in Mountain View on weekends.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lisa
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 14, 2009 at 12:54 pm

This is sad. We should really be providing MORE incentives to take public transit and reduce the number of cars on the road, not fewer! I take Caltrain to work whenever I can, even though it takes more time, costs more money, and is more inconvenient than driving. I do it because I care about the environment.

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Posted by Andrew
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm

It is already ridiculous how much the caltrain costs. The fare should be at most half the price of gasoline for driving the same distance. This way, nobody would feel financially inclined to drive unless they could put another person in their car. It seems to me that a gasoline tax or similar should be applied to pay the difference.

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Posted by MR. BIG
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 15, 2009 at 4:07 am

I say just reduce midday service, is waiting another 30 minutes too much to ask for in the current economic environment?

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Posted by Martin
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Cut weekend service ... GREAT IDEA!!! Please start now!! As a matter of fact, I encourage CalTrain to only run during peak commute hours. For example, 6 - 9 am, and 5 - 8 pm, Monday - Friday. With fuel prices high, and the economy low, there is no reason for these large locomotives to run underutilized.

Please don't get me wrong, I commute on Caltrain, and take it to both SFO and SJC. I love the trains when they are full, and dread them running empty. Bus service from station to station, is adequate for the few weekend riders.

CalTrain, please act now. Cut weekend service, and save the money for electrification.

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Posted by Look at the facts
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 17, 2009 at 12:18 am

Re: Martin's post above, I see where you are coming from but let's look at the facts --

First, money for Caltrain electrification comes from a different pot than the money to run the service. Electrification is a capital project, and in the transit industry capital dollars can rarely be used to fund operating costs. For the politicians who make the budgets, cutting the ribbon on a costly capital project (like electrification) is 'sexy' but saying they helped keep some trains or buses running is not. So the argument that cutting weekend service would somehow save money for electrification is a red herring.

Second, take a look at the actual ridership figures... I was able to find them here (Web Link) by Googling. The 2009 ridership report shows that average weekday ridership on the system is was about 39,100 boardings per day, while average Saturday ridership was about 10,400 and Sunday ridership was about 7,800. While those weekend figures are considerably lower, if you look at the train-by-train ridership (towards the end of the report) it shows that the average ridership per train is still in the 250 to 450 range (boardings) per train. That's a lot of people to try to squeeze on buses. I think you'll find the cost savings a lot less than you expect -- again, not saving the agency as much as claimed.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Guess what . . .

Both parties have made "taxes" a dirty word but, in fact, taxes are the way our socieity is funded.

We need to support our schools and infrastructure or we will fall way behind all other western nations. We need to raise taxes somewhat.

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