Report: Economic impact of electric Caltrain

Modernizing Caltrain could create 9,600 jobs in Bay Area, according to report

Modernizing the Caltrain corridor with electrified trains and updated signal systems could create 9,600 jobs in the Bay Area, according to a report released this week by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

The 39-page report, called "The Economic Impact of Caltrain Modernization," was discussed Tuesday morning by transit advocates and elected officials at Caltrain's Sequoia Station in Redwood City.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, who last year called for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to work toward developing a blended rail system on the Peninsula that would accommodate both Caltrain vehicles and high-speed trains, called on state legislators to include Caltrain modernization funding in the state budget.

"A modernized Caltrain is good for the Peninsula, good for the Bay Area, and good for California," Eshoo said. "Modernizing the system is a win on every level."

Jim Wunderman, the Bay Area Council's president and CEO, said that the rail-modernization project, which if started in the next year could bring an electric train system between San Jose and San Francisco by 2019, would decrease carbon emissions, reduce congestion on nearby U.S. Highway 101, and carry up to 30,000 additional passengers per day.

"Ridership is going up and up and up, and we have to do something to meet the demand," Wunderman said.

Besides providing around 9,600 jobs in construction, delivery and production, the Caltrain Modernization Program could generate billions of dollars in benefits, including short-term economic stimulus and long-term increases in real estate values, and improvements in the region's productivity by speeding up traffic mobility and decreasing the number of hours lost on congested roadways, according to the report.

In May, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved a memorandum of understanding with the California High-Speed Rail Authority to provide $1.5 billion toward modernizing Caltrain and preparing the corridor for a blended rail system.

San Mateo County Supervisor and MTC Chair Adrienne Tissier said that nine different Bay Area transit agencies and local governments approved the memorandum of understanding, which was ultimately approved by the CHRSA.

"The whole Bay Area is behind it," Tissier said. "It's good jobs policy, its good economic development policy, and good environmental policy," she said.

Tissier and Eshoo called on the public to continue to support Caltrain modernization by contacting state representatives, whose state budget negotiations will determine how much money is designated for high-speed rail and its associated projects.

Related story:

Caltrain looks to bolster service in Palo Alto


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2012 at 8:52 am

This should not be just a Caltrain issue but a modernisation of transit through the entire Bay Area region. Caltrain can't stand alone and needs to be coordinated with all the other transit agencies.

Yes electrification and modernisation is badly needed, but doing Caltrain without integration with all other systems is not going to reach the full potential for our transit needs.

Timed tickets rather than distance (2 short distances should not require 2 separate tickets/costs), off peak discounts, family discounts, cheaper parking after 3.00 pm, multiuse advertising and other innovative measures to encourage ridership of all transit including first/last mile, is essential to encourage more use of transit. The more people who use public transit, the less congested our roads and freeways for those who must use them, particularly deliveries, not to mention making them safer.

Do it right, please.

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Posted by caltrans
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 13, 2012 at 9:04 am

Caltrain and other transit systems should be getting a fixed part of the Caltrans budget. Caltrans is spending billions of dollars on minor road projects when the same amount can make a bigger difference if spent on transit projects. Why does Caltrain have to keep begging for money when Caltrans gets a free ride?

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Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:50 am

One of the critical subjects arising from the upgrade is grade separation at crossings. If CalTrain increases the number of trains per day, there will be many times when cars simply can't cross the tracks because the trains keep coming.

Even ignoring all the safety and urban design issues, which also encourage grade separation, gridlock should make it obvious.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:56 am

I would like to know:
1) How much faster an electric train will be than the current trains.
e.g. time to SF from Palo Alto.
2) How can you fit High Speed Trains and Caltrains (slow trains with many stops) on the same track? Or is the plan to have many passing places (4 sets of tracks).

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Posted by Wannabe Caltrain user
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:03 am

The coordination issue raised above is critical. I WANT to like Caltrain. I WANT to take it to the airport. But HAH, fugeddaboutit. Have you looked at the schedule from Menlo Park or Palo Alto? Let's start with the stupid MTA decision to make the strange Y connection for BART at SFO. Then let's look how Caltrain and BART coordinate schedules and fees. Pay the supersurcharge for the one stop BART run to Milbrae. Just miss the connection with Caltrain in the middle of the day. (the BART train arriving closest is 2 min AFTER Caltrain. Wait an hour for the next one. Not much better the other way. Silly. Oh and go to SJC? he he he.

If you want to go at commute hours to or from San Francisco. Excellent. So called Baby Bullet service of 40 min PA to SF frequently is superb (if you can find a seat, but I guess that's a good thing) But after 9am Hourly local trains.

Regional rail rapid transit should be frequent and fast. Every 20 minutes boom boom boom. Don't spend 10 minutes deciphering the schedule (does the 8:32 arrive before or after the 8:27...). Just show up at :02, :22, :42 and get on all day long. Like BART like most rail systems.

End rant

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Posted by Not-Believing-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:13 am

> Besides providing around 9,600 jobs in construction,
> delivery and production

For how long, and how many per year? We keep being feed this pablum by the mostly Union-controlled California legislators, and government owned/operated, taxpayer-subsidized transportation endeavors. Just throwing out a few numbers, like 9,500 new jobs, is almost akin to fraud, when the final tally is made.

This is another boondoggle. How does taking 2-4 Billion dollars out of the taxpayers' pockets and giving it to the unions and state actually pencil out in the long run, It's closer to theft, than "good business".

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Posted by JLC
a resident of University South
on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:25 am

As a regular Caltrain commuter, and also as an occasional driver who lives close to the tracks and needs to cross them 90% of the time I drive, grade separation is higher priority to me than electrification. First, it seems like a high number of major Caltrain schedule disruptions (greater than 15 minutes) are a result of pedestrian, bicycle, car intersections. Second, because there are not many major roads that cross the tracks, traffic funnels through a couple main roads in Palo Alto, which is unavoidable. For someone who lives close to the tracks, the additional traffic by living near one of these roads is the largest nuisance of life here.

Grade separation needs to be addressed eventually -- it might as well be sooner rather than later.

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Posted by pay attention
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm

grade crossings....I will bet that the grade crosings were in place looong before any of the complaining residents were here. Always check the neighborhood and area before buying (renting).
Electric trains... good concept but where is the electricity going to come from? We have shut down nuke plants and want to dismantle dams for enviromental purposes. Wind power isn't going to run trains

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Posted by JLC
a resident of University South
on Jun 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm

@pay attention, I'm sorry -- I don't know how to understand your first comment...are you suggesting that public land and utilities development aren't generally worthwhile? Or, do you think there is an obligation to maintain some kind of historical legacy?

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Posted by anon
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

The report seems too optimistic to me. LIke all those claims we heard from Obama and Eshoo about the "shovel ready" jobs their stimulus plan would create. If the numbers for the high-speed rail ridership and revenues are made up, wouldn't it make sense that these numbers are fake too?

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Posted by JLC
a resident of University South
on Jun 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm

@anon, The Caltrain ridership forecasts at least have the benefit of being based on historical data of Caltrain ridership. I agree that their is an incentive for the agency to choose the most favorable model of forecasting. But at least there is historical data a layperson can compare it to.... (I don't want to get started on HSR. ;-)

Web Link

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Posted by bill g
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm

One part of the original bond issue was the stipulation that private funding would pick up some of the slack. If HSR had any hope of making a profit, private enterprise would be all over the project like fleas on a dog.

Sadly, if the legislature approves any part of the $9 Billion initial funding, we taxpayers will be paying for the system forever because "so much money has been committed, it can't be wasted". This even though $9B is a small percentage of the total package of more than $120 Billion if bond and interest payments are included.

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Posted by James
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I'm a fan of this initiative. But look at a lot of the comments and confusion here and one has to question whether or not Palo Alto is remotely aware of how transit in the Bay Area (and CA, for that matter, works). I know a bunch of people oppose HSR, but the misinformation here is beyond remarkable.

BART is run by BART, the SF MTA runs Muni, the MTC oversees transit in the region, Caltrain is run by a Joint Powers Board. Each of these agencies, while ostensibly related, really run separately. And they also run separately from Caltrans, and the CHSRA. Coordination occurs only if it makes sense for each of those institutions to do so. BART doesn't run direct trains from Millbrae to SFO for most of its operating hours (minus weekends and weeknights), because it costs more for them to do so--even though it would be much more convenient for Caltrainers.

And yes, there are planned bypass tracks for Caltrain so that HSR can overtake Caltrain in certain areas.

In light of the many safety concerns at Palo Alto crossings, Palo Alto should really just step up on its own to grade separate the rail crossings at Meadow, Charleston, Churchill, etc. It would save lots of traffic time, and many many lives. When will we step up is the question.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm


You have hit the nail on the head. I am not sure if you are saying that this is a good thing, but it is about time that these different agencies were merged. It is like the old days when to make dinner you had to go to the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, the farm shop, the dry goods store. We want one stop grocery stores and we need one transit authority.

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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm

James, it may make sense in your eyes for Palo Alto to pay for grade separations, but they are very costly and money is tight. There are a lot of Caltrain haters around and many people who have other priorities for the city's money. In these forums there has been a lot of opposition to Palo Alto building a single ped/bike overpass with 90% grant money. How do you think those people will feel about spending 10 times that money on grade separations?

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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm


Well also if you really get down to it, I'm sure that a majority of posters here would like to see Caltrain shut down. That should tell you something about their connection to reality and the needs of their community...

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

Palo Alto has four grade level crossings: Alma at El Camino, Charleston, E Meadow, and Churchill. With the exception of the Alma crossing I would imagine they would all require some "taking" of property. Then there was the easing of some curves to allow HSR to make its legislated timetable. I wonder if an electrified and better signaled CalTrain would also require that trackwork to allow it to exceed 79MPH.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 13, 2012 at 7:44 pm

1. 'equivalent' temporary jobs. (not 9600 people employed), in exchange for long term misery for the neighbords on the caltrain row with a significiant increase in train traffic and train speed on the corridor, high speed trains running through 50 miles of neighborhoods and school yards, and no guarantees whatsoever that the combined system of caltrain + HSR stays within its current boundaries. In other words approve now and width expansion or overhead expansion is next.

2. If so beneficial to caltrain and the area, then wonderful - it can be funded with a bond request for that specific purpose.

3. approving the HSR funding they have requested builds in central valley - it has nothing to do with the Caltrain improvements until sometime in the far far future (if these improvements are so vital then they should not be tied to building tracks in the central valley)

4. They liars, which they've proven again and again.

5. Wunderman is in the business of big development and wants nothing more than to remodel the richest real estate in the country with tax payers footing the bill for property at rip off land prices via eminent domain.

6. Given Brown and his legistlative lap dogs new scheme to trash the environmental protection laws - any approval to fund work on Caltrain puts these neighborhood and the natural resources in the area in grave danger, and must be stopped. This is the biggest dirtiest scam I've every seen.

I'm a lifelong democrat, voted for Obama. I will be voting entirely republican in every case on every issue, until this CSHSR is shut down and stopped. I will NOT be supporting any tax increases that the Brown administration proposes while they continue to push this scam.

Like this comment
Posted by Robbie
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Our state and our country have many important issues in addition to Caltrain and HSR. Basing all your votes on this one issue is spiteful, nonsensical and probably counterproductive.

Like this comment
Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I find this claim of 30,000 additional riders per day to be very suspect, and the story provides no data to back up this claim.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Robbie - wrong. Because I would be voting not to be an enabler for a bunch of incompetents that have no business being in office, and certainly no business managing our scarce resources, if they are demonstrating such criminal behavior on high speed rail.

Listen, they are in the process right now of throwing our environmental protections under the bus. For special interests. Nope, no more money for the crooked.

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

Building test track in the Central Valley before starting permanent work in the densely inhabited areas of the terminus makes perfect sense. If you prefer the initial work to be in your backyard, I'm 100% behind you. :)

Voting Republican on every issue because you disagree with the rail proposal will certainly assure a paleolithic lifestyle. If we both end up above the cutoff for serf status, I'll buy you a drink. ;)

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Posted by SouthPaloAltan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm

SouthPaloAltan is a registered user.

Also note that electric locomotives are much quieter than the F40PH locomotives currently in use by CalTrain and have no local pollution. A much better comparison is to living next to a BART right-of-way. Not that I would choose to do that, but if I lived next to CalTrain and they converted it to BART, that would be a win.

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Posted by Dennis
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:04 pm

This 'report' is s real piece of work. Please read it if you have a chance. This article completely misses all the BS filler that is passed off as factual information.

First an observations. The issue of grade separations is mentioned only once, and any new grade separations are "to be determined". Considering the whole point of electrifying Caltrain is to 1) add more trains, and 2) allow them to run faster (generally admirable goals considering real ridership demand), this means that the gates at at grade crossings will be down more frequently, which will cause traffic problems for vehicle and pedestrian traffic. More faster trains and at grade crossings is also a recipe for train vs car and train vs people collisions. The plan to ignore grade separations in this report is indicative of the lack of thought that the MTS has put into their version of electrifying Caltrain.

The 9000 odd jobs promised in the report are mostly transient construction jobs. this is not unexpected, but the report floats that high jobs number throughout. It is misleading at best. The report also goes on the claim thousands of 'indirect' and induced' jobs as a result of electrification. As far as I can tell, those estimates are simply made up. "Many"more jobs will be created by 'the ripple effect', again, a completely made up assertion. The report concludes that as many as 24,000 jobs will be created for every billion dollars spent, as a result of "leakage". I'm guessing "leakage" are dollars that were never needed, but spent, or lost, or otherwise unaccounted for?

Further, the report also claims that property within 0.25 miles of a caltrain station saw the value of that property increase 1.5% to 2.4% for every minute shaved off the Baby Bullet transit time, presumably between SJ and SF. This is a new one on me, essentially the punctuality of a train raises property values? And I know that Caltrain is pretty good about being on-time, but I imagine the transit time between SF and SJ varies more than a few minutes on any given day. This 'statistic', I assert, is completely bogus. The report further claims that SF, San Mateo and Santa Clara (counties I assume) should see a combined real increase in property values of $506,300 for a 5 minute reduction in travel time, and a whopping $1,012,500 increase in property values for a 10 minute reduction in transit time. And there should be a corresponding increase in property tax collected of something between $12,300,000 to $59,100,000 as a result. Of course only if the property is sold, appears to be their only caveat. And then there is the "value of commuter time savings, estimated to be between $185,300,000 and $370,500,000.
And where do all these spectacular estimated benefits come from? Well, here is one of the equations:

logAVit = α + β1Aftert + β2TTCi + β3AftertTTCi + X’it δ + εit

and here is another
logAVit = β0 + β1Aftert + β2TTCi + β3AftertTTCi + (1 – Placeboi)  (Υ0 + Υ1Aftert + Υ2TTCi + Υ3AfteriTTCi) + X’it δ + εit

Yes, they are from the report. Note the 'placebo' term in the second equation. I wonder what that is all about?

And there is the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the folks who published this report. There are numerous member companies, one happens to be Parsons Brinkerhoff. They are the large engineering firm that funded the high speed rail ballot initiative, and who's staff are basically running the CA high speed rail authority, who's former employee will soon be the new leader of the CA high speed rail authority. They are also largely responsible for the massive tax payer rip off in Boston a few years back known as the Big Dig.

This report seems to be well within the genre of the glossy brochures the high speed rail authority puts out as fact. I for one, discount it as little more than a deceptive brochure, at best. At worst, well, I'll leave that to you.

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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Dennis, here are a few more to add to your list:

"carry up to 30,000 more passengers per day" - this is doubling the ridership - where's the parking for those taking the trains?

Since Caltrain loses money on each passenger, the more trains, the greater the losses and the more subsidies it will need to operate - where is that money going to come from?

"reduce carbon emissions" - where's the electricity coming from to run these trains - from carbon emitting electrical power plants (either natural gas or coal).

$1.5 billion will buy 75,000 hybrids, enough to cover the entire expected ridership, and there won't be any yearly operational losses to keep subsidizing, and would reduce carbon emissions even more!

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Posted by Worried
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2012 at 12:55 am

Let's hope we don't get the placebo train.

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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2012 at 8:44 am

The reason you would electrify CalTrain would be to improve the operation of the railroad, not to create jobs. This is CalTrain, not the WPA. My questions are, what is the source of that figure and how long will those jobs last? I suspect they will largely be temporary jobs. If the figure of 10,000 (9,600) jobs is in any way close to accurate, then we have to ask if the project is too labor intensive and thus too expensive.

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2012 at 9:06 am

> Palo Alto should really just step up on its own to grade separate the rail crossings at Meadow, Charleston, Churchill, etc.

The city can't do that because it necessarily involves building Berlin Walls.

> "carry up to 30,000 more passengers per day" - this is doubling the ridership

No it isn't. Current weekday ridership is closer to 45,000

As for gate down time: Caltrain is proposing to go from five trains per peak hour per direction to... six trains per peak hour per direction. That's right, a whole 20% more train traffic. The speed of the trains is immaterial to gate down time.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2012 at 9:15 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The quickest electrification is to sub it out to PG&E and pay it back by a horsepower/hour charge for the juice. This can even pay for locomotives. Perhaps even the crossing problem could be handled this way. At least construction could start soon enough to benefit those of us approaching old age.

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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2012 at 10:43 am

SteveU is a registered user.

I am glad someone pointed to the 9600 temporary jobs (that would probably be filled by workers from out of state).

I grew up in New Jersey (50's) and remember my neighbors taking the ELECTRIC TRAIN to work. Google shows the trains are still running (Web Link ) and the passenger cars look similar to those CalTrain uses.

Maybe it is time to get Private industry to build us a Modern Railroad and rent the Equipment to CalTrain similar to what SpaceX just did.

Like this comment
Posted by Phill
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jun 14, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Imagine, another PR brochure proclaiming the economic bonanza that awaits the SF Peninsula, billions upon billions of 'new' wealth, but it will only cost a few billion in caltrain improvements to make it happen! This report is another pile of **** which appears to be put out by the latest HSR shills, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. Full of statistical mumbo jumbo that certainly appears to be made up.

News flash, if improving Caltrain would generate much more wealth than it cost, Caltrain would be a maglev super sonic, yet silent marvel of mass transportation. Instead, it's still just a bunch of cars pulled by a conventional diesel electric locomotive struggling to balance it's books, wondering where the other 50% of it's operating income will come from next year.

Clearly, this report is little more than a document Brown and local politicians can point to to say, see, we really do need to release that HSR bond money.

A fraud is still a fraud, whether it has a glossy brochure filled with pie in the sky promises, or not.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Charleston Gardens

on May 27, 2017 at 11:31 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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

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