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Caltrain raises parking fees, reduces service

Original post made on Jul 3, 2009

The board of directors for Caltrain on Thursday unanimously approved several changes, including service reductions and parking fee increases, intended to eliminate the agency's $2.6 million deficit.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, July 2, 2009, 5:16 PM

Comments (10)

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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2009 at 12:33 pm

USA is a registered user.

Caltrain thinks that since it is a government agency that it can keep raising taxes with impunity, but it is really in the consumer marketplace and is going to price itself out of the market.

Far be it from me to do a little math, but let's give it a shot ...

Currently the cost for a GO Pass is $112.75. With an average of 21 business days per month, that works out to $5.37. With $2 parking, the cost per day is $7.37. With gas at $3 per gallon, a person could buy 2.46 gallons of gas for $7.37. At 25 miles per gallon, a person could drive 62 miles.

With the price increases, the daily cost is now $9.67, which could get a person 81 miles.

It is 72 miles from downtown Mtn. View to downtown SF round trip.

It terms of the gas cost, it's better to drive to SF. (Of course, this does not include the cost of the car's wear&tear and parking in SF or the cost of riding Muni from the SF depot to downtown.)

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Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2009 at 4:00 pm

nice try, but your calculations are lacking.

Multiply each mile driven by 43 cents (the amount the IRS considers reimbursable for wear and tear and depreciation) and the cost of driving sky rockets. Then factor in stop and go traffic and parking as you point out.

Cal Train is still a deal, expecially if you don't have a car, or split a car within a family.

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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2009 at 9:59 pm

USA is a registered user.

Well there Ned, that's why I put the note there at the end, so I don't know what you're tweaked about.

BTW, I did not say that cars are the better deal. I said the by increasing prices, Caltrain is on its way to doing so in the future. ("is going to" -- future tense)

BTW #2, the IRS rate is 55 cents/mile and that is for basic transportation. The real rate for most cars around here is higher.

BTW #3, Caltrain is one word with a lower case "t".

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Posted by Another viewpoint
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 4, 2009 at 7:59 am

"BTW, I did not say that cars are the better deal. I said the by increasing prices, Caltrain is on its way to doing so in the future. ("is going to" -- future tense)"

This implies that the cost of Caltrain is the only thing that rises, while the cost of driving is a constant. The last time I checked, gas prices have risen back to $3.00+ a gallon here, compared to around $2.25 last winter, a 33% increase. And they will continue to fluctuate in the future.

"Caltrain thinks that since it is a government agency that it can keep raising taxes with impunity, but it is really in the consumer marketplace and is going to price itself out of the market."

Hmmm... this sounds vaguely like economics. We'll, let's try out some more then...

Like all price changes, a change in the cost of parking provides either an incentive or a disincentive for certain consumer behavior. In this case, raising the cost of parking but not the base train fare may discourage some riders who must drive to the station, but for those who have options (can walk, bike, or get dropped off) it will encourage a shift away from driving & parking at the station. For those who already do not drive & park, this change will not be felt at all. When you consider how much it costs to provide parking (capital cost to construct, ongoing cost to maintain & provide security, opportunity cost of using land as parking rather than a more productive use) a shift away from park & ride usage is something Caltrain probably doesn't mind.

And incidentally, it is inaccurate to say that Caltrain is "raising taxes" by raising the cost of parking. As any tax lobbyist or economist will tell you, when someone chooses to use a government service and pays for it, he’s paying a user fee, not a tax. (For instance, see this article
Web Link)

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Posted by Another viewpoint
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 4, 2009 at 8:15 am

Raising the cost of the GO Pass will affect all commuters who use these passes, regardless of how they get to the station. But for some, GO Passes are fully or partially subsidized by their employers, so again, the effect is different for different consumers.

And a few words about why Caltrain might have to raise taxes (actually user fees) "with impunity"...
Caltrain operations are funded through contributions from San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, largely with sales tax revenues. Sales tax revenues in the Bay Area and around the state have been running 15-20% lower so far this year due to the economic crisis we're in. Despite the headlines about Caltrain and other agencies receiving stimulus dollars, Federal money cannot be used for operations, only for things like buying trains, replacing track, etc. So Caltrain must balance its budget by either cutting costs or raising revenues. They've already made one very tough cost cutting move -- reducing midday service -- and if they made others, there would be an outcry. So they've moved to fill part of the hole with a revenue increase.

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Posted by Jordan
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 6, 2009 at 8:53 am

Caltrain is run worse than third world countries...
They dont bother to announce when there is a delay, etc...

Its like a part-time job that even the conductors don't care about.

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Posted by kanan krishnan
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 6, 2009 at 2:29 pm

i see so many back and forth discussions here. for me, public transporation is very inconvenient because the time it takes to walk to the station or the parking cost is too high to take caltrain. if caltrain wants people to keep on using the caltrain, they have to encourage by keeping the fares attractive and the parking fees low. the scenario now is the worst, high parking fees, high fares..doesn't work for me. Having a car is not optional in this area and cars are very convenient and flexible anytime of the day,week,month,..sure it costs..but it is worth it as long as you can afford it and have a decent mpg car. these public agencies are simply clueless and arrogant to keep hiking the fares and cut down the services. i really feel bad for the people living on the edges in this area.

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Posted by AC
a resident of another community
on Jul 7, 2009 at 2:11 am

AC is a registered user.

I attended the Caltrain public meeting which was held in Santa Clara County.

To be truthful, my suggestion which I made as impassionately as I could, was to raise the fares.

Here was my rationale:
1.) A Caltrain Monthly Pass grants use to all SamTrans and VTA. A two-zone monthly pass *plus* monthly parking permit costs $132. Picture that. Two counties plus Caltrain plus free zone upgrades on weekends. An extra $40 gets Muni. That's transit from Gilroy to Sausalito, free on weekends, and only zone upgrade fees on weekdays.

2.) Compare to the East Bay, which is lower income and poorer quality of service. AC Transit doesn't honor BART nor vice versa. Caltrain passes are a steal. Think about parking at BART, taking the BART, hopping an AC Transit. Brutal in terms of cost.

3.) One of the other options to deal with the deficit was curtailing or suspending weekend service, service to Gilroy, service to Giants games. Bad idea. Consider... a fare increase with 2 months warning gives people time to rebudget their transit. Eliminating service means people will drive; and those who don't will buy commuter cars. Riders you lose due to suspension of service are riders you will *never get back*. Whereas ridership you lose due to cost-prohibitive will normalize.

4.) The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board comprises three counties of a different socio-economic class than the East Bay. The property values are higher, the residents (per census results) make a higher income on average than our East Bay counterparts. We can more easily afford the fare increase; but there's no sense to us to pay for service that we don't get. Curtailing service is therefore still the worse of two evils.

5.) Consistently acclaimed as the best transit system in the country is Portland, Oregon's Tri-Met. The reasons are: It serves all three counties of the Portland Metro Area, it's ubiquitious, and it runs. For Caltrain to be successful, it must be the same. Again, curtailing service or eliminating coverage is therefore ultimately counter-productive.

Based on these considerations, I said that it's a no-brainer. Raise the fares. People bought homes and setup lifestyles (especially in South County) which depend upon availability of public transit to San Francisco. Those of us on the Peninsula come to rely upon that easy access to the city as well. Suspending service is a long-term failure.

The one point I *did* make, but which is less likely to be taken seriously, and maybe even impossible to implement (because Caltrain is an entity shared by three counties, and is not independent of those counties) is to suspend the capital project for electrifying the rail. That costs money today in environmental impact assessments, studies, shopping vendors, etc; and will incur further costs in replacement of rolling stock, updating grade crossings, installing power lines for pantographs, etc. Not only that, but when the time comes, Caltrain will get as much grief as the High Speed Rail Initiative in terms of putting up power lines, raising tracks, digging tunnels, and all the other drama. Again, the demographic of the Peninsula is comprised of the sorts of people who vote; and the ballots alone on appropriate of funds or getting approval to install electric rail stuff will cost money and take forever. I say we suspend the project and take it up again when we have the money.

Another point I raised was that Caltrain's engineers and conductors are actually Amtrak employees. So forget getting money from the state for Caltrain. We're beyond broke. But Amtrak will get stimulus money, so divert some of the cost of those employees (benefits, pension plans, etc) and pay it out of Amtrak's budget.

The longer term stuff, we'll have to see.

But raising the fare, and only an extra ten bucks a month for a parking permit... seemed a no-brainer to me.

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Posted by Roadie
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 8, 2009 at 6:42 am

Public transportation should be free and funded by the entire populace as it is a major benefit to everyone in terms of less greenhouse gasses, less crowded roads, ease of employer's recruiting workers no matter where they reside, etc. The few days this has happened around here have clearly shown these benefits.

When I make a decision on how to get to SF, especially if I have more than one person in a car, the expense of Caltrain makes it a really bad option. There is also a large opportunity cost to the time involved in getting there by train as opposed to car. As far as traffic jams, I usually know a non-freeway route around them.

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Posted by AC
a resident of another community
on Jul 8, 2009 at 3:00 pm

AC is a registered user.

Roadie, as much as I may agree with you in principle, we just can't afford it. We're broke. We're beyond broke, we're over our heads in public spending.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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