Caltrain proposes fare increases starting in 2020

Agency seeks opinions on possible price hike through public meetings

People can weigh in on potential Caltrain fare changes at a series of public meetings the agency will hold this month.

Six meetings are lined up ahead of a public hearing by Caltrain's board of directors at the agency's headquarters in San Carlos on Aug. 1. Those unable to attend the August meeting are invited to voice their opinions at any of the other scheduled meetings.

The board is considering increasing the price of the Go Pass, the annual unlimited ride pass, up to 20% on Jan. 1, 2020, with a 5% increase to follow every two years on Jan. 1.

They are also considering implementing regular fare increases every two years. If the proposal is adopted, the base fare will increase 50 cents in July 2020, the zone fare, which is calculated based on the number of zones traveled by the passenger, will increase 25 cents in July 2022, and the base fare will increase 50 cents again in July 2024, according to Caltrain.

If the agency adopts the proposed changes, it will be eligible for participation in the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Regional Means Based Fare Pilot Program, currently scheduled to begin in early 2020.

By participating in the program, Caltrain could offer low-income riders a 20% discount on the single-ride adult Clipper Card fares.

The board will give the changes a final vote at a September meeting, according to Caltrain.

The first of six meetings is set for Wednesday, July 17, at 5:40 p.m. at Caltrain's offices at 1250 San Carlos Ave. in San Carlos. The full list of meeting times and locations can be found at


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17 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2019 at 10:01 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

As much as I appreciate Caltrain for its convenience, the price for a ticket hurts its mission to reduce traffic in the Bay Area. A roundtrip ticket to San Francisco is now $16.50. If I include parking at a Caltrain lot ($5.50 per day), the cost to use Caltrain for one trip now costs $22 per day.

If a couple wants to go to the game, it costs to go on Caltrain. If a family of four (two adults and two kids), it costs $55.00 ($16.50*2 + $8.25*2 + $5.50 parking). The contrast is that parking at Lot A next to Oracle Park is $30 -- but cheaper elsewhere.

Yes, the Clipper Card is available for daily commuters. It is a cheaper alternative. The monthly cost for Zone 1 to 3 is currently $231 per person with monthly parking passes an extra $82.50 (for a total of $313.50 per month).

However, it seems like there should be a financial incentive for people to give up driving. Many municipalities take the negative reinforcement (rather than positive reinforcement) approach -- because parking fees is easy money in each city's coffers. However, it rarely increases demand for public transportation and actually hurts non-work visits to each city.

The cost of one gallon of gasoline (enough to get someone from Palo Alto to San Francisco and back) is $3.69. Yes, there are parking charges in San Francisco. However, depending upon where you work or shop, most businesses provide parking passes. Apart from tourist destinations, parking is readily available (and at a better price) in the city.

Over the last decade, Caltrain has increased the prices per ticket and parking passes at a large rate. I can't remember what a price for a ticket was in 2009, but I remember that I felt that it was a bit high back then.

What would happen if Caltrain added more cars to each train? The fuel and staff costs wouldn't increase very much (especially once its electrified).

If Caltrain tickets were lowered (to $10 per day), it seems that demand would increase quite a bit. This would relieve parking and traffic issues in most cities located along the corridor (like Palo Alto).

How much would the diminished traffic and parking woes be worth to each city? It seems that municipalities like Palo Alto might actually want to contribute even more to Caltrain if it meant lower costs per rider to the point that fewer cars would be on the streets of Palo Alto.

11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Caltrain, like other forms of public transport, are their own worst enemy when it comes to pricing.

There are no incentives to travel off peak, why not have off peak fares for after 10.00 am. There are no reductions in prices for parking for those who use the lots after 5.00pm, why not have free parking at lots after 3.00 pm so that those using it for Giants or Sharks games have incentives?

There are no group rates or family tickets? There are no weekend cheaper tickets? Getting riders on the lesser used trains in the schedule would be a worthwhile exercise since the trains are going anyway.

On top of that, the zones are unhelpful for many people. Why should someone going from downtown Palo Alto pay more to get to Redwood City because it is two zones, be paying more than someone going from downtown Palo Alto to downtown Sunnyvale because it is the same zone?

With all the incentives to get people to stop solo commuting, it still makes sense to get more people on those trains at off peak times. Evening and weekend usage could make a big difference in profitability with very little effort.

16 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2019 at 2:01 pm

It is just really hard to make a one-dimensional system conceived to serve the transportation needs of 18th century rural England competitive with a highly networked two-dimensional system of roadways.

Nothing about Caltrain makes sense because it has been isolated from market forces on government life-support for decades. If not for government life support, Caltrain would have died a natural death long ago.

6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown

>> As much as I appreciate Caltrain for its convenience, the price for a ticket hurts its mission to reduce traffic in the Bay Area. A roundtrip ticket to San Francisco is now $16.50. If I include parking at a Caltrain lot ($5.50 per day), the cost to use Caltrain for one trip now costs $22 per day.

Agreed. Clearly Caltrain raised prices too high and arrested a long period of ridership growth. It would be dumb to increase fares further.

3 people like this
Posted by systemBuilder
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 23, 2019 at 4:35 pm

The monthly pass on Caltrain is NOT $231, Caltrain began a new round of gouging its customers by increasing the multiplier by 28x zone far to 30x zone fair, so it's now $247.50 for somebody traveling between zone 3 and zone 1 every day. They have been making the monthly passes WORSE AND WORSE since 2011, when it was 26 x zone fare. I fail to see the ethics in this. If there is inflation, they should increase the cost of the base fare, not the cost of the monthly passes. I think they are doing a poor job of controlling costs when there is no discount for commuters.

Like this comment
Posted by economiser
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 23, 2019 at 6:03 pm

Get together 84 or more riders and you can all buy a full year Go Pass for $285 each.
Unlimited rides. Minimum buy-in $23,940. Less than $24/month. Such a deal.
Might need to form a Limited Partnership and issue ID badges. Parking not included.

5 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2019 at 6:27 am

Having often ridden Caltrain at rush hour, it seems to me that ticket prices are not too high. It’s standing room only, and that’s what’s limiting rush hour ridership growth.

I like the idea of surge and off-peak pricing, which could help the situation. However, Caltrain will never make much of a dent in our gridlocked transportation networks. What we need is a moratorium on building and to pressure employers to allow telecommuting.

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