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Caltrain board: 'The crisis is at hand'

Original post made on Feb 7, 2011

The board that oversees Caltrain is calling for a public hearing on March 3 to declare a fiscal emergency and to consider cutting service and closing stations, a move that would turn the West's second-oldest passenger line into a daytime commuter train that would operate only during peak business hours. ==B Related stories:==
■ [Web Link Group seeks to stem Caltrain 'death spiral']
■ [Web Link Uncertainties mount for struggling Caltrain]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, February 7, 2011, 12:39 PM

Comments (16)

Posted by Sean, a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 7, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Maybe threatening the general public with death and then mentioning how unelightened we all are is not the best path to convincing voters to find a way to keep Caltrain around.


Posted by Antonio Napolero, a resident of Castro City
on Feb 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Rightsizing Caltrain to 48 trains per day looks like a perfect plan to me. It would enable Caltrain to retain the majority of its ridership at peak time, while eliminating the underutilized early morning/late night and middle of the day trains.

Once again, it shows that, when facing financial pressure, government organizations like Caltrain are able to eliminate wasteful spendings and renegotiate compensations to provide services at a lower cost.

Congrats Caltrain!


Posted by Martin, a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm

This is a real opportunity for Caltrain to "reinvent" itself. If they are successful in maintaining operation with this abbreviated schedule, they can expand to cover off-peak passenger traffic with two small DMUs, running north-south routes on an hourly interval. This will give Caltrain a new "more efficient" image, and perhaps something that can be supported at the ballot-box.

Let's go for it!!


Posted by Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Perhaps they should fix the problem that causes riders to avoid taking the train in off peak hours, rather than just giving up. This isn't cost-cutting; it's a white flag. They could have a very successful off-peak system if they could reduce commute time and make it more convenient, but instead they have elected to take the off-peak pub trans option away altogether.


Posted by Karl, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm

If a reduction in money from San Mateo County is a big part of the problem, close all the
stations in San Mateo County except Millbrae (so SC County riders can transfer to BART)
and run the current schedule with all trains express through San Mateo County. Add a big
surcharge to any ticket bought at the Millbrae station. People from other counties can always
buy round trip tickets in their county.


Posted by J, a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Relevant item in today's SF Chron:

-- SamTrans and Caltrain head Michael Scanlon got a $407,642 pay package last year, including a no-interest home loan that is partially paid down by the district, a $24,000 annual housing allowance and $24,765 for unused time off.

Web Link


Posted by Doug Pearson, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Feb 7, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I am not a Caltrain commuter. On the few occasions I use Caltrain, I use it during non-commute hours, so -- of course -- I would like to see trains continue during those hours on at least an hourly basis. I understand Caltrain must cut service to keep its costs in line with its income, but I have no magic wand to offer.

The cost of running short trains dedicated to non-commute hours (two small DMUs?) is less than running a 5-7 car train but I doubt it is enough less to solve Caltrain's financial problem. Greater efficiency in other ways, e.g., electrification, no at-grade crossings, "pods", cost big bucks up front that Caltrain does not have.

What they need--what governments at all levels need--is more (tax) income. I realize those complaining about waste don't believe that but it just seems to me that there is not enough waste to bring costs in line with the taxes we already pay. And unlike those complaining about waste, I believe our taxes are too low.


Posted by Greg Perry, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 7, 2011 at 9:40 pm


It's all the same people. Yeager sits on the MTC board and VTA board, where he votes to cut Caltrain funds. Scanlon is the head of SamTrans, where he recommended cutting support for Caltrain.

Then, the two of them complain about the lack of funding, as though someone else had done it.


Posted by Econ/Acctg, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 7, 2011 at 11:39 pm

It's been a long time since my Econ and Cost Accounting courses. But, my recollection is that an endeavor such as this has both fixed and variable costs. Most of the fixed costs are in place regardless of the number of trains (Mgmt salaries, insurance, track maintenance, etc). Many of those items won't change in going from 88 to 48.

One would hope that the net profit from each incremental train (ticket revenue less variable cost to run THAT train) would be positive, and would help to cover fixed costs. But if each incremental train is a "loser" (in terms of variable costs for a train exceeding train revenues), then why are we even in the train business? Just shut the whole thing down.

As a related aside, how much direct expense is there in each route? Fuel? A conductor? Does it really cost much more to make an extra stop?


Posted by Observer, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 8, 2011 at 7:55 am

From the MERC

Caltrain's CEO, who has proposed shutting half the rail line's stations and halting much of its service to survive financially, earns more than $400,000 in salary -- more than any transit boss in California.

Last year, Caltrain chief Mike Scanlon took home 59 percent more than the median salary for a CEO of one of the state's 23 largest transit operators, according to a Bay Area News Group review of salaries released by the State Controller's Office this month.


Posted by Marcus, a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 8, 2011 at 8:19 am

What happens to all the money when someone gets a DUI. California gives more DUI's than any other state where does this money go? Why don't they use some of this money to pay for public transportation instead of overtime to police officers to set up road blocks and give DUI's and impound cars. If giving DUI has become a priority in CA then providing public transportation should be also.


Posted by Antonio, a resident of Castro City
on Feb 8, 2011 at 8:33 am

This might help explain some of Caltrain's problems
"Despite historic financial woes, Caltrain CEO's $400,000 paycheck is state's highest"
Web Link


Posted by Ellen, a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2011 at 10:53 am

I live in Menlo Park and take the train occasionally when visiting SF, so I don't have as large a stake in the game as those who use the trains to commute daily. I would simply like to point out to those griping about the CEO's salary - he could work for free and it would not make even a tiny dent in the budget shortfall. What he is paid is not the problem, although one could legitimately wish for greater creativity for that level of pay. Envy and resentment does not get us closer to a solution.


Posted by Observer, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 8, 2011 at 11:26 am

Envy? My goodness. Do you pay taxes? We are doomed Ellen if that's what you think this is about. All these high salaries and sense of entitlement from public servants is bankrupting us. He's free to go work in the private sector. You did point out that one could wish for greater creativity for that level of pay.


Posted by John the Man, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 9, 2011 at 4:52 am

If it's a matter of life-or-death to Scanlon (and since we, the public, are so unenlightened), I'm sure he would be willing to give up some of his almost half-million a year to change that.

What a jerk.


Posted by Norma, a resident of Castro City
on Feb 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Caltrain officials only pay Scanlon $85,000 a year for his CEO services. The rest of his salary comes from the two other agencies he heads. Lowering his salary is clearly not going to solve Caltrain's budget problem.


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