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Caltrain reports record ridership, revenue boost

Original post made on Aug 3, 2012

Caltrain's average weekday ridership in June was a record 50,390, an 11 percent increase over June 2011, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which governs Caltrain, announced Thursday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 3, 2012, 1:35 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Now is the time for Caltrain to revamp its fare structures, give offpeak discounts, family tickets, enable rountrip/Muni passes, and other innovative incentives. Marketing and advertising should also be pumped up and free parking after 3.00pm at all Caltrain stations.
Next work with VTA, SamTrans, etc. on 1st/last mile connections.

Demand is growing. Now use it wisely.

Posted by Shut-Caltrain-Down
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2012 at 9:23 am

A daily ridership of 50,000 implies about 25,000 unique individuals. This is up from a ridership of 38,000 to 40,000 a couple of years ago (19,000 to 20,000 unique individuals).

Given that the service area of the Peninsula is about 3.5M (give or take), 25,000 unique riders does not really seem significant, and hardly justifies operating a rail system that has cost the taxpayers well over $1B to fund. The pending plans for electrification, paid for from bonds that were supposed to pay for the HSR, will add another $2B-$3B to the capital costs buried in this outmoded transportation "system".

Even with the increased revenue, Caltrain is no where near being self-sufficient. If the true costs of providing this service were published, people would be astonished at how expensive the public subsidies to the riders are.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 4, 2012 at 9:47 am


So you selfishly think that when you drive your car you are not being subsidized by taxpayers? Think again.

Or perhaps you walk or bike everywhere, and still receive the benefit of taxes for your roads, street lights, traffic lights, sidewalks, hiking trails, and so on ad infinitum.

Posted by shut it down
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 4, 2012 at 9:57 am

Shut it down!

I really want another 20,000 cars on 101 with me. It's a great big PARTY!

Posted by parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Caltrain is relevant? Too bad then that the Caltrain management got in bed with CHSRA who will promptly ground it in to the ground. Daily commuters (and Caltrain neighbords) get ready to move over for tourists who need to get a luxury ride from SF to LA!

Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Even with diesel locomotives, CalTrain is vastly more energy efficient than having 20,000 individual automobiles on the roads.

CalTrans bailed Southern Pacific out of the money-losing commute business in 1980, and it did so with both eyes wide open. It was never expected to be a break-even operation.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2012 at 10:35 am

It is clear that Caltrain is extremely popular and that their ridership at this time is limited only by their ability to provide capacity. The argument above about "unique individuals" contains a flaw that is repeated ad nauseum whenever ridership numbers are presented. There are 25,000 unique individuals every day, but those are not necessarily the same ones on each day. Although many riders take the train daily, a significant percentage take it only once or twice a week. That means that the customer base is much larger than the "unique individuals" count for a single day. For example, if there are 25,000 two-way riders each day for a 5-day week for 125,000 total and 20,000 of them are the same ones each day (weekly total 100,000) then the other 25,000 trips are taken by 25,000 one-day-a-week riders. That means the number of customers served is 45,000 rather than 25,000.

Posted by capacity
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2012 at 11:11 am

One of the big advantages of electrifying Caltrain is the increase in capacity. Now is the time to get it done. I regularly see Caltrain refusing passengers because the trains are full.

Improving public transit is so much cheaper than building new freeways, which no one wants in their backyards anyway.

Posted by Jens
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Recently, the Hwy 92 and I880 intersection was renewed/upgraded for "free". I would like see more transparency in reporting expenditures that, as in this case, are exclusively for the benefit of the motorist.

Posted by finch
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I don't want to subsidize people on public transportation. We've been doing that for more than 30 years and these transit agencies, whether it's VTA, Caltrain, SamTrans or BART, aren't moving toward self sufficiency. It's time we cut the money off and let them sink or swim. I'm tired of being ripped off by people like Liz Kniss, Joe Simitian and Jerry Hill.

Posted by A.E.Neuman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Everybody loves a choo-choo train. Brings back the day when we would ride the train through the valley orchards. Back then each passenger paid his fair share to experience the joy of riding the choo-choo train and smell the blossoming fruit trees along the way. Now each rider is subsidized by local taxpayers and are under the belief that somehow the price of a train ticket has magically remained the same for the past 40 years. Riders claim other forms of transportation are subsidized but offer no substance and offer no explanation why they should not have to pay their fair share. The choo-choo train costs to taxpayers is no longer sustainable and continues to skyrocket out of control while politicians continue to fund this albatross with dollars that are no longer available.

Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Here here finch. Now, as someone who uses transit and bike exclusively, and thus never travels on the Bay Bridge, San Mateo Bridge, or any number of other roads which are prohibited for bikes, I want a refund on my income taxes that I paid to subsidize your mode of travel. You owe me a lot more than the Caltrain riders owe you.

Posted by MP resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I would like to see 'quiet zones' established along the Peninsula. Cities should not be promoting housing next to Caltrain until quiet zones are put in place. It is so unnecessary for these trains- Caltrain and freight trains to be blowing their horns morning, noon and night. Other cities have established quiet zones. If cities want to get people out of their cars and living closer to the downtowns where people can walk or bike or use public transit then those cities should also put in place quiet zones. For many households that are located even somewhat close to the tracks, they are forced to keep their windows closed and their air conditioning on which defeats the purpose of reducing our carbon footprint. Thanks for listening!

Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2012 at 5:17 pm

MP - the trains predated the housing. You can't build housing next to a train and then complain about the train. Well, you can, but you won't get much sympathy. Even if you didn't build it but bought it from someone who did.

Do note that the easiest way to get rid of the horns is to get rid of the at grade crossings... hmm... HSR... hmm...

Posted by Robert
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm


You must not be paying very much attention, unless somehow you think that you're paying for the roads and highways you use exclusively through your gas taxes and registration fees. We all pay for things we don't use but that still help our economy, such as schools highways airports, and I would like to see someone argue that all those tech companies and start-ups along Caltrain aren't helping the local economy.

Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2012 at 7:10 pm

The majority of road and highway funding comes from sales taxes and income taxes, including those $100 million boondoggle merging lanes that are making a mess of Hwy 101 right now. Caltrain, on the other hand, has no dedicated funding source and cobbles together its budget from gifts from the counties it serves. This needs to be fixed.

Posted by parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 6, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Jen - exclusively for the benefit of motorists? So you don't feel there is any commerce, any employees reaching their places of work, or employers gaining access to productive workers, or any trucking industry delivering goods so that you can shop at a neighborhood store, instead of growing your own milk, eggs, protein, fruit and veg, lumber, etc., in your back yard (thereby freeing you up as well for productive employment outside of the home). There are no emergency services enabled by having roads, no ability for you to get your family to a hospital on something other than a bike? Roads are all for the benefit of joy riding - no net GDP produced for the nation by the existence of roads - its all a just big tax suck, a big rip off? You and the folks other train foamers on the pro-HSR blogs ought to go get an education on economics, productivity, and history.

Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2012 at 1:14 am

It's ridiculous to think that taxpayers don't subsidize Bayshore freeway, the 280, the Nimitz, Interstate 5, bridges, etc. Some bridges charge tolls but the highways do not. Where do you think the money for highway maintenance comes from?

Posted by Alex
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2012 at 10:10 am

"Roads are all for the benefit of joy riding - no net GDP produced for the nation by the existence of roads - its all a just big tax suck, a big rip off?"

Textbook straw man.

Web Link

Posted by phil
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Hey, John Murphy ... you're asking for a refund on your income taxes for bridges and roads you don't use? Those bridges and roads were built principally with tolls and gas taxes. Every gallon of gas includes 18 cents of federal road taxes, 18 of state, and excise taxes that vary by county. Much of that money goes for roads and bridges.

And even though you claim you don't use the roads and bridges, I'll bet you consume items that arrive here by way of truck. And those trucks use those roads and bridges.

President Obama is right when he tells small business owners "you didn't make that." What he means is that those businesses -- and people like you, John Murphy -- wouldn't have the things you have without roads and bridges. And yes, some of your income taxes go for those projects, but they are mainly funded with gas taxes and tolls.

Posted by Ulu Watu
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Well I don't have children, therefore I shouldn't have to pay any property taxes. This is so simple! How about everyone gets to decide where every cent of their tax dollars go?

Everyone pays for something they do not use directly. While you may not use Caltrain, *your* few tax dollars are providing a service that benefits all ages from the South Bay to the Peninsula to The City.

Are there opportunities and room for improvement in how Caltrain operates fiscally and operationally? Absolutely, as there is in every single business that receives money from the public.

If revenues continue to increase in the next few years while subsidies remain flat, then we'll be in agreement my kind sage.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2012 at 4:56 pm

"bridges and roads were built principally with tolls and gas taxes"
Ha, ha, ha. This is absolutely nonsense. Of course you can't build a bridge with tolls because you can't charge tolls until the bridge is built! Tolls and gas taxes can't even keep up with the maintenance, let alone upgrades and expansions, so lots of general fund money goes into them.

No transportation mode supports itself without subsidies. The feds subsidize air travel and sea ports in addition to highways and transit. That is good for all of us. Diversity makes a transportation system healthy and robust and gives people choices.

Posted by Robbie
a resident of Ventura
on Aug 7, 2012 at 6:37 pm

When I hear people talk about shutting down Caltrain I can't help but remember the article about the blind young woman who uses the train to get to work, and I also think about my disabled mother who uses the train to get to SF and SJ. There are many people who can't drive, and we should not spend all of our money on systems that exclude these valuable members of society. They deserve options that work for them as much as the able-bodied who are able to drive on freeways. They pay income tax, sales tax and all the other taxes that pay for the bulk of federal funding even if they don't pay gas tax or bridge tolls.

Posted by Janet
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Caltrain is a big winner when it comes to reducing air pollution, and an electric train will be even more, as long as people don't drive to the train station. The cold start and the first few miles cause most of the air pollution of a drive, so driving 1-5 miles and then taking the train is the worst. Shuttles and neighborhood buses are needed to get people to and from the stations. These exist in soem places, but not everywhere.

Posted by Tina
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm

I dont mind paying for trains, buses, road, bridges, airports or boat terminals that I dont personally use as long as they benefit society in general. It would be a mean and ugly society if we each could say that our taxes only got spent to benefit us personally. Everyone outside the mainstream would be cut off and we'd quickly shrivel and lose all the variety that makes us so great.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Aug 8, 2012 at 10:42 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Very nice recent posts. It is exactly the kind of discussion I wanted to start on my connections, values and the economy thread.

Posters recognize that drivers and train riders are connected. The trains reduce congestion on 101, which would be quite something if even half of the 25,000 daily riders drove the freeway.

And posters recognize that the roads and trains are important for the economy. Train riders benefit the economy by making it easier for trucks to use the roads and both make airport access easier.

Some posters bring their values into the discussion noting that trains provide mobility for people who do not drive for financial or other reasons.

Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm

OK Phil, actual Freight does not have to give me a refund. So I'll only get what, 80% of my refund? The vast majority of miles driven are by solo drivers with no freight.

If 101 only carried frieght, it could be one lane in each direction and would never be congested.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Los Altos

on Jun 5, 2017 at 12:42 pm

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

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