Caltrain aims to keep all 86 trains running

Cash-strapped agency's newest proposal would use one-time funds to balance 2012 budget, maintain current service levels

Caltrain would keep all of its 86 weekday trains running for the next year if the agency's board of directors approves on Thursday staff's latest proposal.

The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a proposal that would raise base fares by 25 cents and increase the daily parking rate from $3 to $4 -- changes that would take effect July 1.

But the agency would not have to make the types of draconian service cuts that officials had previously considered to close the budget shortfall, which remains at $3.5 million for the next fiscal year. A new staff report suggests that the budget hole could be filled by increased contributions from its partner agencies. Caltrain doesn't have a dedicated funding source and relies on annual "donations" from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

In a new report, staff is recommending keeping all 86 weekday trains running in fiscal year 2012. The report acknowledges, however, that maintaining this level of service is "contingent upon favorable conclusion of discussions among MTC (the Metropolitan Transportation Commission) and the JPB partner agencies."

The report projects the agency's revenues in fiscal year 2012 to be $99.3 million and its expenses to be $102.8 million. Staff is still working with the MTC and the three transit agencies that fund Caltrain to close the $3.5 million gap.

"Funds to fill the $3.5 million shortfall have been tentatively identified but are subject to positive ongoing discussions between the JPB partner agencies and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission," Michelle Bouchard, Caltrain's director of rail transportation, wrote in the report.

Staff is also recommending raising the monthly parking rate from $30 to $40.

The JPB board considered earlier this month a staff proposal to cut service from 86 trains to 76. The board delayed voting on the proposal to give staff more time to seek additional funding that would make the cuts unnecessary.

Staff is proposing to balance the 2012 budget using one-time funding sources such as rolling over the 2011 budget into next year and transferring funds from the capital program to preventive maintenance. At the same time, staff will continue to hold discussions with the partner agencies in hopes of getting increased contributions in future years.

"This will be challenging," Bouchard wrote in the new report. "JPB's reserves are below reasonable levels and JPB partners continue to experience reductions in their own sources of revenues largely attributable to the ongoing global recession."

Caltrain's board of directors is scheduled to vote on the latest staff proposal at 10 a.m. Thursday at SamTrans Administrative Offices in San Carlos.

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Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2011 at 9:40 am

Where's the advertising, promotions and innovations to get new ridership? Caltrain need to market itself to get new riders, particularly off peak and occasional riders.

Increasing daily parking is fine, but why not make it free after 3.00 pm to encourage evening use for theater, etc?

Why not give 50% discount on monthly passes for 6 months to new buyers of condos or other housing built within 1/2 mile of a station?

Family tickets and off peak discounts with advertising could generate many new users.

I can't see Caltrain making any efforts to increase ridership just same old/same old, for the riders they already have. Raising prices alone is not how to run the service and expect more revenue.

Like this comment
Posted by free train tickets for home buyers
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 20, 2011 at 10:14 am

Giving away free Caltrain tickets sounds like a good marketing ploy for housing developers. Caltrain does have discount passes for employers to give to employees. I bet housing developers can tap into that program. Maybe the city should "encourage" them to do so.

Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Apr 20, 2011 at 12:28 pm


Why has ridership been increasing so much? It can't be due to lousy marketing.

It would be nice if some rich person who enjoys easy freeway rides would donate some marketing money.

Caltrain can accommodate some increase in ridership with limited increase in expenses, but if it goes up very much, some serious capital expenditures will be required (electrification, eliminating grade crossings, etc).

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Preimesberger
a resident of Portola Valley
on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:17 pm

This caught my eye: "Michelle Bouchard, Caltrain's director of rail transportation, wrote in the report." Um, what other type of transportation does CalTrain do?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 8:11 am

It is good that ridership is increasing, but not enough to make the difference Caltrain seems to need.

I think we are a long way from the increases needing more capital expenditure but that would be a good problem to have.

What is really needed is increasing ridership at off peak and weekends. The incentives to fill the empty seats on trains rather than making the trains standing room only should be the aim of any marketing and advertising promotions. Using trains that are sitting empty at the depots during off peak times will make a difference.

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

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