Caltrain to hold public hearing on changes to fares, parking fees | News | Palo Alto Online |


Caltrain to hold public hearing on changes to fares, parking fees


Early next month the public will be able to comment on the proposed changes to Caltrain fares and station parking fees, Caltrain officials said Wednesday.

Caltrain officials will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. Nov. 5 in the second floor auditorium of the Caltrain Administrative Headquarters, agency officials said.

The headquarters is located at 1250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos, and the hearing will be held during the board of directors meeting, according to agency officials.

Caltrain is proposing to increase the adult fare by 50 cents, which would apply to Day Passes, eight-ride tickets and monthly passes, Caltrain officials said.

Discount fares would remain at 50 percent of the adult fare and Clipper Card users would still get a discount of about 15 percent, agency officials said.

Officials are also proposing to increase the daily and monthly parking fees from $5 and $50 to $5.50 and $55.

Community members have commented about both changes at four community meetings earlier this month, according to Caltrain officials.

The public can continue to comment by mail, email or phone until the public hearing, Caltrain officials said. Comments can be mailed to Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, JPB Secretary, P.O. Box 3006, San Carlos, CA 94070-1306.

Comments can be sent by email to or made by phone at 800-660-4287 or TTY at 650-508-6448.

The board of directors are planning to vote on the proposed changes at their Dec. 3 meeting, according to Caltrain officials.

The changes to fares, if approved, would go into effect Feb. 28 and the parking fee changes July 1, Caltrain officials said.

The agency last adjusted its fares Oct. 5, 2014, according to agency officials.

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8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:14 am

My particular gripe about fares, why is a trip from Palo Alto to Redwood City (something I do) two zones when a trip from Palo Alto to Sunnyvale is in the same zone. Two stations to Redwood City should not be twice as much as four stations to Sunnyvale. It makes no sense to me.

8 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:24 am

The current farebox recovery for Caltrain is around 60%. The fares charged passengers should push the revenues to the point where the recovery is closer to 100%. The total new revenue per rider should be at least $2.00/day.

The following outlines revenue generation projections:

For every 10,000 unique riders per day on Caltrain, a $2.00 ticket increase would generate $20,000 of additional revenue per day. This would increase revenue approximately $7.3M yearly for each 10K unique people riding this train. For 50K unique riders, this modest ticket price increase would generate approximately $36.5M a year.

It’s long past time that the general public has been forced to subsidize this railroad. The passengers should be expected to pay the total cost of the services they use.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:43 am

Wayne Martin.

I don't understand your logic. At present I pay $5.25 from Palo Alto to Redwood City. You want me to pay $7.25 for two stations?

By your logic, my present fare for Palo Alto to Sunnyvale is $3.25 for four stations and you would increase it to $5.25.

I can't think that this is the way to attract riders.

All transportation, roads, planes, etc. are subsidized by tax dollars. Rail should be no exception. Every rider on Caltrain is one less car which makes your commute one car less crowded. Your tax dollars are helping to keep these cars off the roads.

4 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:25 pm

My one time experience on Caltrain to go to AT&T - I put the information in wrong - paid the full fare to get there but something was wrong. The conductor told me he could report me and fine me - despite that I paid the full fare confusion on one-way vs two way. And the change that I got back was gold colored coin dollars - which I have saved. And the customers for game day were all geared up with coolers, etc. They were drunk on the way back.

The parking lot was totally full so I parked on the street - luckily it was not street sweeper day. You could not do that today with the permits.

If I have to go somewhere on the Caltrain side of anywhere I use a car.

I love the train and the ride but there is too much confusion and wacky customers on game days.

I don't have those type problems on BART which I use frequently. I always have a BART prepaid card in my wallet. Yes the customers are a mixed bag but they are a nice group of people happy to be on the ride.

1 person likes this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:29 pm

>I can't think that this is the way to attract riders.

Perhaps not—but there are more issues on the table than one of “attracting riders”. Someone has to pay for these services—and claiming that the taxpayers should be the main source of funds is the wrong answer for a country that is so heavily in debt.

Moreover, Caltrain is capacity limited by definition. At some point, the number of riders will max out, but the costs will continue to grow.

> All transportation, roads, planes, etc. are subsidized by tax dollars.

Perhaps that’s true—but this does not mean that it is the right thing to do with our tax dollars. Certainly we see with Amtrak a vast waste of taxpayers’ money—run mostly for the benefit of Amtrak’s employees, and a few train-loving passengers. (While Amtrak is a good idea in the Northeast Transportation Corridor, it is not a good idea for the rest of the country.)

As to Caltrain, this 77-mile “railroad” is (or soon will be) one of the most heavily subsidized public transportation systems in the country. There is already over $1B in capital expenditures sunk into this system (as far as I can tell) and another $1B will soon be wasted electrifying it. That $2B will never be recovered at the farebox—it will be exacted from people who do not, or can not, make use of the facility.

Let’s suppose that the cost to Caltrain to provide the service you use is actually $8.00 (or some number more than the current ticket price). Why do you feel that you shouldn’t pay the actual cost of service—rather than expecting the taxpayers to fund the difference? Is this an entitlement you claim you have a right to? If you need to travel—why shouldn’t those expenses be yours alone?

> Your tax dollars are helping to keep these cars off the roads.

And your point is? The number of cars kept off the roads at the cost of $2+B + $100M every year (or so), for 50K-60K unique people (depending on the year) does not seem a good use of our public funds.

23 people like this
Posted by Commuter
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Why tax dollar should subsidize roads and not trains?
Let's make driver pay for what is the real cost of highways, including pollution, delays because of traffic and accidents.

Let's increase car registration to the real impact of big cars (more traffic, bigger parking lots, more polution).

When we do this, paying for the full cost of a train ride will be way cheaper than driving.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Possibly the difference in fairs is due to some type of county charge. Redwood City is in San Mateo County. I am noting that the county you are in makes a difference for medical issues - maybe the whole government system is working on county tax issues. That would be a good question to ask at the meeting.

31 people like this
Posted by Now I See
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Most, but not all, of public transit, especially trains and HSR, never even break even in most, if not all, of the world.

I travel Europe and Asia six or more times per year. Unless heavily subsidized by the government, as most in Europe and Asia are, public transit loses money. Some, like the TGV, lose money regardless.

Most people will not or cannot pay the full unsubsidized price of a ticket. Nor do most people have time to wait through all the stops. My own brother has to get up at 4:30 in the morning to catch the first train out of San Jose to make it to work on time in San Francisco. If he wants to be home before 8:30 pm, he must leave work by 5:30 to catch a train out of SF. If he needs to work a little late, he gets home no earlier than 11:00.

Most Europeans and Asians are used to this, and used to having little to no family life; nut will Americans put up with this--especially if the cost get relatively expensive?

14 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:48 pm

Caltrains executive officer will make $434,661 this year Web Link . The president of the US has a compensation package worth about $570,000 Web Link

I think the Caltrain compensation is a tax payer rip off. How much of that fare increase gets completely absorbed paying one employee?

5 people like this
Posted by Alai
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:05 pm

Part of the benefit of the electrification project is that it reduces running costs. The trains are faster, so one train and crew can make more runs in the same amount of time, carrying more passengers for the same cost. Also, the faster speeds will help attract more passengers because of increased convenience. So the money spent is an investment.

Obviously, no one bothers to ask how Caltrans will make a profit on their latest freeway expansion.

If people do want Caltrain to come closer to breaking even, there is one obvious approach-- raise the parking fees. Raising fares will likely impact ridership, which can result in reduced revenues. Parking, on the other hand, routinely sells out 100%, and will likely continue to do so even at higher rates, so that's easy money for Caltrain.

Like this comment
Posted by Alai
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:08 pm

Electricity is cheaper than diesel, too.

3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 30, 2015 at 4:55 am

The topic of electrification has been running on another stream. The question on the table is if they are going to a four track system to set-up for HSR. The four track system will require reconfiguration of all depots, many of which are on raised berms which will not allow for the expansion of the allowable space. That brings up the topic of using eminent domain to expand the allowable space. There is a huge expense we are looking at here so that is a topic that needs to be addressed. That is not a cost that the taxpayer can absorb.

There are new, hybrid locomotives which can run up to 125 MPH so the argument for electrification is a needless cost driver.

I hope the Caltrain people are in a position to discuss where this is all going because it has a direct impact from Gilroy to SF. It is affecting how we manage new construction along the transportation route - we are in a hold position while they are mute on this topic.

Check out the Belmont station - they have an underpass that goes under the tracks that is well done. We need to get that feature. It does not look that hard to do.

This meeting should be about more than fares and parking costs - it is about going to a four track system and use of eminent domain to achieve that.

12 people like this
Posted by Greg_H
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 30, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Greg_H is a registered user.

Caltrain Parking needs to be the same as the daily rate downtown. Otherwise, people will park in the caltrain lot for $5.5 and walk to work downtown. Should go up to whatever the daily cost is in city garage - isn't something like $15 a day?

15 people like this
Posted by Kevin Ohlson
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2015 at 3:55 pm

I rarely ride CalTrain/ Not because I am against it, but because it doesn't go where I usually go. That said, I think it is a valuable resource, and I don't mind that some portion of my tax dollars subsidize it, because the riders would otherwise be on 101, which would almost certainly make my use of that road worse. So I see the benefit of subsidy without actually using it.

20 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 30, 2015 at 4:01 pm

> Part of the benefit of the electrification project is
> that...The trains are faster


Currently, the top speed for Caltrain is 79MPH.

If/when electrification is deployed the top speed for Caltrain will be 79MPH.

If you're referring to travel times, electrified bullet trains will NOT reach their destinations appreciably faster than the diesels. They can't, due to the top speed limitation.

I do agree, though, that local service would see an improvement in travel times with an electrified Caltrain. However, as a user of Caltrain for commuting, I can assure you that commuters target the bullet trains because they get to their destinations significantly faster.

And bullet trains will not see a noticable improvement in travel times with electrification.

7 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 30, 2015 at 5:28 pm

I was considering switching from BART to Caltrain, but it's already more expensive to ride and to park at Caltrain than BART. If you are worried about non-riders taking the parking, then make some kind of clipper card tap device or one you would feed your train ticket through. Raising prices will discourage ridership. They need more riders, not fewer.

4 people like this
Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2015 at 5:32 am

Caltrain electrification is HSR electrification. The current plan is for HSR to share Caltrain's two-track right of way and for that the ROW will need to be electrified.

HSR should pay for electrification of the ROW and no more. The acquisition of new electric locomotives and rolling stock for Caltrain should be paid for by the agency that owns Caltrain, the PCJPB which encompasses the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara. No way should California taxpayers fund local Caltrain improvements. Caltrain will run just fine with existing rolling stock even if the ROW is electrified for HSR. If the three counties want to improve Caltrain, they should come up with the funds to do so, not the state of California.

With HSR using the two tracks used by Caltrain and Union Pacific freight, Caltrains will be shunted off onto passing tracks while HSR trains come barreling through. What's that going to do to the popular baby bullets with their top speed of 79 mph? I haven't seen a hypothetical timetable which interleaves HSR and Caltrain. I doubt the bureaucrats have thought that far ahead, so the impact of HSR on the Caltrain timetable is a great big question mark. They can increase the frequency and shorten the headways of Caltrain service but if those trains are spending time sitting on passing tracks waiting for HSR trains to blaze by, it's going to nullify a the benefit of increased Caltrain frequency.

8 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 31, 2015 at 9:55 am

We are looking at problems of people and cars being hit by Caltrain - for any number of reasons. They have the initial problem of not switching the trains at each end so the engine is in front vs the back pushing the train - which causes jack knifing of the cars. The people running the train should be in front to detect problems on the rails. That can be accomplished by having a turntable at each end of the system. They had that 100 years ago.

The whole concept of side-railing a Caltrain so HSR can go zooming passed boggles the mind as we do not seem to have the technology today being applied to this situation. The cost to put that in is highly expensive and there is no guarantee of any increased safety. We are continually dogged by safety issues due to lack of solid engineering personnel at the top of the decision pole.

Amtrak has a problem going to LA because the freight trains have up to 100 cars - the passenger trains are side lined until they pass.

The next question is each depot is remarkably different and some on berms are limited in capability for expansion. Others - like Atherton are as originally built more than a century ago.

This brings to mind James Michener's book on Poland. Prior to the Communist takeover it had a highly developed system of farming that produced the bread basket of the whole area. In comes the Communist and they implode political hacks into the government who have little understanding of how the whole system works and then turns this into a starving country in short time.
All of his books point to that same set of circumstances.

The bottom line here is that GSR cannot meet it's goal of 2+ hours between LA and SF. And Caltrain cannot meet the schedule it prints out for the passengers. So no one is going to use it.

I could go on her but you get the idea.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe Bloe
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Resident 1: For your turntable idea to work they would have to put the entire train on a turntable to put the locomotive at the front of the train. If there are 2, 3 or more cars, the turntable would have to be prohibitively long. These are not S.F. cable cars where the turntable idea works. There was never a turntable at the old 3rd & Townsend station or the current San Jose station. Until they went to push-pull trains they used to drive the locomotive around to the opposite end of the train to go back in the opposite direction.

In a push-pull train the operator is at the front of the train. Yes, it can jackknife if an obstacle is hit but a turntable is not the solution.

You should go out some time and see how these trains actually work and think your ideas through.

2 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2015 at 7:53 pm

Train fares may not recover much of their costs, but I suspect the recover more than the gas taxes do for roads. Are local roads even paid for with gas taxes? It seems like a lot of sales tax goes to roads, paid both by those who drive a lot and those who drive very little or not at all.

Like this comment
Posted by @DW
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 1, 2015 at 12:17 am

Every item upon which I pay sales tax, arrives by road.

Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 1, 2015 at 5:31 am

There is suppose to be a larger goal out there that is yet undefined to the public - or itself. The creation of side tracks where the Caltrain waits while the HSR zooms by? Where are the side tracks if in fact they intend to create them?
If you have side tracks then you can create one in which the engine is moved to the front at each end. You are just moving the engine so it ends up positioned correctly via side tracks.

You all keep saying that the electric train can go faster - but noted above the train now is going as fast as it needs to. A modern hybrid engine can go up to 125 MPH.

What ever you see today is not how this will end up to be. That is what other people keep indicating.

Meanwhile this lack of disclosure is preventing the ability for cities to move ahead with development of other options on the transit route. The peninsula is very narrow for the purposes of development. There is not a lot of space to work with. The baylands are being further developed to create the buffer for encroaching bay water so creating more fill is not a good option.

Caltrain will need to put the cards on the table. Does it want more parking space? Where is that suppose to be?

A lot of future planning that needs to get published.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2015 at 8:45 am

The upper speeds of an electric train at its cruising speed may well be the same as the Caltrain we have at present. But the bigger difference is that it takes a much shorter time to reach that speed and also much shorter braking speed. IOW, trains can reach their destination faster because their acceleration and braking times are slower which translates to them cruising at the speed limit for a much longer time.

The fact that they can brake faster is a big factor in safety also. An electric train will come to a complete stop much sooner after an emergency brake situation than a regular diesel train. It may also help that an electric train can have its brake operated remotely by a safety protocol when there is an obstacle ahead or for some reason like an earthquake.

Electric trains will be safer for these reasons, as well as their overall time from beginning to end of their route due to being able to travel at top cruising speed for more of their route.

1 person likes this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 1, 2015 at 9:35 am

IAW the SJN 11/01/15 - 'MTC merger needs a deft touch". There is another action taking place - the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is attempting to take over ABAG and the Association of Bay Area Governments. The goal is to improve better alignment of housing, jobs, and public transit.
This is a state / federal funded agency. It is yet to be clarified as to how each city will interact with the agency. The MTC controls how state and federal funding is allocated. This merger action is in process so unclear how that impacts the local cities.

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