Once again, Caltrain is facing budget instability and a staff recommendation to raise fares to close a budget gap. There will be initial board presentation tomorrow, Thursday June 6. Tomorrow the board is expected to schedule a hearing on August 1 regarding accelerating fare increases.
The last time that Caltrain sought to raise fares, many transit supporters and commute managers encouraged changes that could increase ridership and improve equity without raising fares.
It’s more urgent now.
- Since the last fare increase in August 2017 Caltrain ridership has slowly but steadily declined.
- Caltrain’s data and analysis suggests that the fare increase has been suppressing ridership
- Caltrain’s polling for a potential ballot measure shows that voters are concerned about Caltrain’s reputation as a luxury product and about companies paying their fare share
- Caltrain’s polling suggests that ballot measure opinions are very sensitive to messaging. Stories about ridership declines and fare increases will harm efforts to raise dedicated funding to fix the budget instability
The proposed fare changes are:
- Removing the Clipper® discounts of $0.55 for one-way fares and $.15 for Eligible Discount one-way fares effective no earlier than January 2020.
- Implementing incremental fare increases every two years (e.g., $.50 on the base fare at the beginning of Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, $.25 on the zone fare for FY 2023, and $.50 on the base fare for FY 2025).
- The incremental base and zone fare increases will also increase Monthly pass prices as Monthly pass prices equal 30x one-way fares.
These changes are on top of the 2017 fare increases basing monthly pass prices on 30 one-way fares (15 days per month), rather than 26 one-way fares (13 days per month), and increasing the zone fare by 25 cents.
Caltrain’s fare policy adopted last year included this: “Provide predictable and incremental fare changes.” Do you think these changes are in line with the policy?
Some thoughts about what this means….
- Fare increases and ridership decreases are signs of a decline spiral that will make it harder to raise money. Caltrain should find solutions other than fare increases
- Analysis suggests that Caltrain could increase revenue, increase ridership, and improve equitable access by adjusting its GoPass program to serve many thousands of contractors and retail/service workers who work at the same office park and downtown locations as the high-paid full-time employees who receive GoPass. This idea has been supported by employers, transportation managers, and transit advocates. https://www.greencaltrain.com/2017/07/employers-commute-managers-and-nonprofits-urge-caltrain-to-expand-gopass/
Potential conclusions include:
- Caltrain should not raise fares on individual riders beyond the previous plan
- Caltrain should updates its GoPass to serve contractors to corporations and workers served by transportation management associations, which could increase revenue and improve equitable access
What do you think?
The board meeting tomorrow, starting at 10am at 1250 San Carlos Ave in San Carlos, will open the discussion on the topic. The Caltrain board will have its formal hearing on August 1. There are two months to share your thoughts with the Caltrain board (firstname.lastname@example.org). Let us know what you think in comments.