Caltrain nearly doubles farebox recovery since 2004, helping operating budget

At this coming Thursday’s board meeting, the Caltrain board will consider increasing the expected farebox contribution to the operating budget from a range of 38 to 50 percent, adopted in 2008, to a range of 45 to 65 percent, starting in 2014. This will enable Caltrain to contribute more rider revenues (and require lower public contribution) in the next fiscal year’s budget.

Driven by increasing ridership, Caltrain’s farebox recovery has nearly doubled since 2004, climbing from 30.2% to 58.6% in FY 2012, the last full fiscal year.  Farebox recovery this fiscal year so far is over 60%, helped by the Giants season.  For comparison, BART’s farebox recovery was 68% in FY 2012.  Most transit systems require some public subsidy, as do most roads and freeways whose maintenance is paid for by taxes.

Caltrain still lacks stable operating funding, but the improvement in farebox recovery will make the gap easier to close.  And the future looks brighter.

Electrification is expected to improve Caltrain’s top line by boosting ridership due to faster and more frequent service (the last electrification study predicted an increase of 80%), and to improve the bottom line by reducing costs of fuel and maintenance.  The Downtown Extension to Transbay Terminal could double ridership again by bringing riders to a center with 3x the number of jobs.