Epiphany Hotel workers sign up for Caltrain GoPass; trains aren’t just for the wealthy

Wendy Silvani, the consultant who is working on the city’s transportation management association (TMA),  paid a visit to workers at the Epiphany Hotel in downtown Palo Alto.  Accompanied by a translator, she talked about commute options to downtown Palo Alto, including the train. The TMA’s research had showed that many workers, including workers who serve customers, clean rooms, prepare food, live in South San Jose and Santa Clara County, and many of these workers currently drive to work.  The research suggested that Caltrain might be an appealing option – if the fare was affordable.

More than half of the hotel’s 100 workers attended one of Silvani’s workshops. About 20 workers signed up for the Caltrain Go Pass, which provides about a 90% discount for commuters, when an employer signs up for the package which requires purchasing passes for all employees.  An additional 17 workers received help planning a commute option without driving alone.

The statistics – show that Caltrain is currently used largely by higher income workers, with an average salary of $117,000.   The common impression in our region is that higher income people prefer commuting by train, whereas lower income workers prefer commuting by bus.   The Epiphany anecdote suggests that lower income workers would prefer a faster transit commute, if only it was cost-effective.

The TMA’s research shows that there are many more downtown Palo Alto service workers who live with the Caltrain catchment area, but most work for smaller retail stores and restaurants that are not large enough to buy into the GoPass program.  One of the most powerful programs to help lower-income workers commute without driving, would be the ability for the TMA to be able to purchase the GoPass for a pool of downtown workers, and make the discount price be available for the lower-income workers.

The TMA is in the process of getting incorporated as a nonprofit – it won’t be able to administer programs until it is an official, funded, organization. And Caltrain does not yet offer a GoPass fare for Transportation Management Associations.  Such a program has the potential to help reduce traffic and parking demand, provide more equitable access for the Caltrain service, and provide more revenue for Caltrain.

Epiphany Hotel

Epiphany Hotel

Based on robust research about the commute patterns and preferences among people who work in Downtown Palo Alto, the emerging transportation management association is starting to craft programs