On May 7, the Caltrain JPB scheduled two public hearings on possible fare and service changes as well as to declare a fiscal emergency. Caltrain is facing a projected $10.1 million deficit for the next fiscal year which starts this July.
Over the years, the introduction of Baby Bullet service and other one-time measures managed to get Caltrain through several years of structural deficits, but it appears they’ve run out of one-time measures. However, raising fares and/or cutting service would be a dire hit to the positive momentum of the last several years.
BayRail Alliance believes that major changes are needed to address the structural deficits. Without major changes, Caltrain’s plan to cut service and raise fares could be the beginning of a downward spiral.
BayRail Alliance 5-point plan:
- No elimination of weekend service
- No bicycle surcharge
- Establish airport parking
- Support dedicated funding
- Replace Caltrain JPB with an elected district
While some elements can be implemented by Caltrain in the short run, others will require changes in state law. Please support our effort by joining our Facebook group as we plan our actions in the next few months.
No elimination of weekend service
Eliminating service entirely is the non-creative, knee-jerk response. The more creative solution that was employed for weekday service (reduce travel times to attract more riders and decrease operating cost) should be tried for weekend service. For many people, a weekend trip say to a Giants game or special event in San Francisco is their introduction to Caltrain, and can lead to them riding more frequently. Without weekend service, many will fall into the habit of driving to the games on weekdays as well.
No bicycle surcharge
We oppose to the surcharge because it will be inconvenient to riders and it can result in a net revenue loss for Caltrain. In addition, since Caltrain does not and cannot guarantee a bicycle space onboard, asking for a surcharge with the chance of being bumped is nothing but bad customer service.
Establish airport parking
Ample parking is available at many stations that are not served by the Baby Bullet trains. Caltrain should start a long-term airport parking program at these stations beginning at $4 per day (BART charges $5 a day at East Bay stations and Millbrae, and $6 in SSF and San Bruno). Currently Caltrain parking is limited to 24 hours.
Support dedicated funding
Unlike BART, Muni, and VTA, Caltrain does not have a dedicated source of revenue for train operation. Today, the train’s operating cost is settled among the three county transit agencies (Muni, SamTrans, and VTA) which all have their own priorities. Without dedicated funding, Caltrain cannot make plans to expand service in the long term.
Currently, there’s a bill in the state legislature (AB744) that would authorize the conversion of carpool lanes on freeways into toll lanes for solo drivers. We believe the surplus from these lanes should be used for Caltrain operation. Part of the bridge toll already provides stable operating funds for transbay buses and ferries.
Replace Caltrain JPB with an elected district
With the current structure, Caltrain’s interests will always be subordinate to the 3 agencies’ interests. They take Caltrain for granted and discount its value. The current board is not able to represent the riders and is insufficient to create the political leadership needed to take Caltrain forward.
For instance, all three of the Caltrain board members from Santa Clara County do not represent Palo Alto and Mountain View, which are the major sources of ridership. In fact, two of the board members from Santa Clara County only represent areas south of San Jose’s Tamien Station.
An elected board, like AC Transit and BART, would help ensure fairness, accountability, and leadership.