Caltrain is experiencing record ridership growth following 24 months of consecutive increases. In response to this growth, Caltrain is adding two new trains and restoring four others, previously cut due to budget constraints. It also adds service to existing trains to provide more options for Caltrain customers.
In June, Caltrain reached an all-time high averaging more than 50,000 riders each weekday. For a passenger that means many peak hour trains are full or standing-room only. When the additional service rolls out Oct. 1 it isn’t expected to completely eliminate crowding on all trains, but it does offer more options for peak-hour commuters and more frequent trains during the midday to appeal to passengers who need service alternatives during the off-peak.
The new schedule includes “shoulder” trains, or trains on the edges of the regular morning and afternoon commutes, to increase travel options for commuters. It also adds either a Palo Alto or Sunnyvale stop to 12 limited service trains. The additional stop should give customers more flexibility in planning their commute without a significant increase in the overall operating time.
“These changes are a response to the high demand we’re seeing for Caltrain services,” said Chuck Harvey, deputy chief executive officer for Caltrain. “We’re hoping to reduce some of the crowding on peak-hour trains by providing more options for our customers. We’re hoping these changes will provide a short-term solution while we continue to plan for faster, more frequent service to more stations through corridor electrification.”
Electrification is part of Caltrain’s modernization program which will also fund the purchase of electric vehicles and install an advanced signal system, known as CBOSS positive train control. These upgrades will allow Caltrain to provide more frequent, fast, reliable service, while reducing emissions by up to 90 percent, and removing more cars from the Bay Area’s congested roadway. It also cuts the operating subsidy needed to run the system by half and prepares the corridor for future High Speed Rail Service.
Caltrain is the only Bay Area transit system without a dedicated source of revenue. The three partners, City and County of San Francisco, SamTrans and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, contribute to the operating revenue for Caltrain. For the last two years, Caltrain has maintained operations in part through one-time only funds. The Fiscal Year 2013 budget was also blanaced using one-time only funds, but they will run out at the end of this year. After Fiscal Year 2013, those funds will be gone, which means tht a year from now, Caltrain will be looking for additonal funding to meet the operating subsidy.
Corridor electrification will reduce the need for member contributions but will still require some level of subsidy. Caltrain is currently evaluating a number of options for creating a stable source of funding to assure the railroad’s future.