Press Releases: Caltrain Board Approves Fare Changes and Ridership Decreases Slightly

South San Franscisco, CA   September 6, 2019 Submitted by Dan Lieberman, Caltrain

Caltrain Board Approves Fare Changes


The Caltrain Board of Directors adopted changes to the agency’s fares that will provide low income rides with discounted fares and will generate additional revenue to help support the system’s operating and maintenance needs over the next few years.


Caltrain is the only transit system in the region without a dedicated funding source to support its operations. Projections for the coming years anticipate that contributions from Caltrain’s member agencies will remain flat and indicate that the agency will require additional revenue to offset costs associated with the operation of new federally-mandated safety systems. The fare changes will generate nearly $25 million over the next three years to support these needs.


The changes allow Caltrain to participate in a Regional Means Based Fare Pilot Program currently scheduled to begin in early 2020. By participating in this regional program, Caltrain will be able to offer eligible participants a 20% discount on single-ride adult Clipper Card fares.


The changes also include a 20% increase to the price of the Go Pass that will become effective on January 1, 2020, with a 5% increase to follow every two years on January 1. Clipper discounts for one-way fares and monthly passes will also be reduced by 30 cents on April 1, 2020. The Caltrain Go Pass program allows companies, educational institutions and residential complexes to purchase annual unlimited-ride passes for all eligible employees, residents or students


Additionally, there will be regular incremental fare increases every two years, with a 50 cent increase to the base fare scheduled for July 2020, a 25 cent increase to the zone fare scheduled for July 2022 and a 50 cent increase to the base fare scheduled for July 2024.


Caltrain is exploring options to create a dedicated revenue source in 2020 to help fund options for expanded service being evaluated in the Caltrain Business Plan.


Caltrain Ridership Decreases Slightly, Remains Strong


Caltrain’s annual ridership count showed a decrease of 2.3 percent for weekday ridership, with an average mid-weekday ridership (AMWR) of approximately 63,597.


Initial findings from the annual onboard ridership count show substantial growth compared to 2010 when average weekday ridership (AWR) was at 34,120, or 2004 when AWR was at an all-time low of 23,947 and the Baby Bullet service began.


The results of the annual ridership count, given to the Board of Directors at its monthly meeting on Thursday, provides a snapshot of Caltrain that can be used to plan future service improvements, allocate resources to address capacity issues and validate revenue-based ridership estimates.


Most riders continue to travel during peak commute hours. There was a 0.5% increase in traditional peak riders (defined as northbound in the morning peak period and southbound in the afternoon peak period) from 34,373 riders in 2018 to 34,552 in 2019.  There was a 5.5% increase in midday riders, 7.2% decrease in reverse peak riders (southbound in the morning peak period and northbound in the afternoon peak period) and 16.4% decrease in evening riders.


Ridership is up at 11 stations and down at 18. The 10 most popular train stations are San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose Diridon, Mountain View, Redwood City, Hillsdale, Sunnyvale, Millbrae, San Mateo and 22nd Street.


Results show that bike ridership decreased by 7% this year, with 5,506 riders bringing bikes on Caltrain on an average mid-weekday.


For the eighth year, Caltrain counted the number of bike riders that were not able to board the train due to overcrowding.  There was a slight decrease in bikes bumped with 1.5 riders bumped per 1,000 bikes boarded versus 1.6 in 2018.


This physical head count of riders is typically conducted in January and February when there are fewer holidays and special events that could skew ridership numbers. Trains were surveyed twice each on two mid-weekdays.


Caltrain will continue to analyze the data in order to maximize the efficiency of the system.  Future service planning also requires use of ridership data to develop potential service scenarios to improve capacity pre- and post-electrification. The entirety of the 2019 Annual Count Key Findings Report will be uploaded to later this year.



About Caltrain: Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with limited commute service to Gilroy. While the Joint Powers Board assumed operating responsibilities for the service in 1992, the railroad celebrated 150 years of continuous passenger service in 2014. Planning for the next 150 years of Peninsula rail service, Caltrain is on pace to electrify the corridor, reduce diesel emissions by 97 percent by 2040 and add more service to more stations.

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