Speaking of public transportation needed to support the projected growth in Bay Area population and employment over the next 30 years, Caltrain ridership is at an all-time high and some rush hour trains are standing room only.
At the same time, while revenue from riders is also at an all-time high and the electrification of Caltrain is expected to substantially reduce operating costs starting in 2019, ridership revenue only covers half of Caltrain’s current operating budget and the “one-time” source of funds from Caltrain’s three operating partners (SamTrans, the Santa Clara VTA, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) is set to run out at the end of the 2013 fiscal year.
Next week, SamTrans will ask San Mateo’s Supervisors for a share of the sales tax increase approved by San Mateo voters last November, funds which could be used to help fund Caltrain, a ballot measure is being considered in San Francisco.
Bay Area Plan To Support 2 Million More People Up For Vote [SocketSite]
Electrifying Mission Bay And Transbay Transit Center News [SocketSite]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Mark

    This is a myth… it isn’t “one-time” funding… it is called budgeting. Most people have to do it.
    Do you call your salary last year “one-time”? Do you need a dedicated funding source, i.e. a fixed % of your company’s revenue? No, nobody gets that and they shouldn’t.

  2. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    I don’t know what games San Mateo Co. is playing with the “one time funding” ploy but it is pretty clear that Caltrain is the backbone of their transit system. The county would seize up without Caltrain. So no chance they don’t get funded.

  3. Posted by anon

    ^Incorrect analogy Mark. Your salary comes from the same place the next year (your employer). Caltrain has no dedicated funding source, so they have to go out and find funding each year. It would be more akin to you being a contractor who has to go find a new contract each year. You may have a client that you’re pretty sure will re-sign, but the default action if no one does anything is that you’ll have no income in the new year and no contract.
    Your analogy is closer to what BART or Muni has, with dedicated funding and simply a budget to balance each year. Wildly different situations from Caltrain.

  4. Posted by Annoyed

    The standing room only trains are largely a product of the jpb’s decision to put 2 bike cars on every train. It sounds nice but what it does is take away about one seat per bike. So a paying customer has to stand while a bike takes up their seat free of charge. Very annoying!

  5. Posted by anonanon

    I associate the standing room only trains mainly with Giants evening games when trains will be packed even several hours before the game starts. I was on one train last year where the aisles were so packed with standing passengers that people needing to get off had big problems getting to the door. That’s part of the reason our current transportation infrastructure is ill equipped to handle the addition of a 200-event-per-year basketball arena on the Embarcadero.

  6. Posted by Annoyed

    I know 375 is sro on non game days, at least when I’m on it.
    I doubt the trains would be worse for Warriors games.

  7. Posted by Alex

    Caltrain needs to find a stable source of funding, its becoming more and more important to the Bay Area especially with the tech boom in silicon Valley! Can’t wait for Caltrain to electrify and get European style trains, now I only hope they decide on raising the speed limit to at least 100 so that trains to make more trips in a shorter amount of time.

  8. Posted by anonanon

    My experience is that a game day makes the difference between the train being full (and possibly sro) and being guaranteed sro, possibly to the point that people have problems finding a place to stand. Adding a basketball arena event crowd on a game day would not be a good thing.

  9. Posted by Jake

    FYI, this Caltrain study does not include Giants games. The >100% capacity trains were all either AM northbound or PM southbound (table 8 of the study).
    From the study (namelink to the pdf):
    The 2013 annual Caltrain passenger counts, which were conducted from January 22 to February 22, 2013, followed the same methodology that has been used since the counts
    commenced in 1994. Physical headcounts of all boarding and alighting passengers, and bikes per station, are collected for all weekday and weekend trains. Weekday trains are counted five times each, once each day, Monday through Friday. Figures given are an average of the five
    days. On weekends, each train is counted once on Saturday and once on Sunday. Counts are conducted in February to avoid special events, especially Giant’s baseball games at AT&T Park in San Francisco, which can distort average ridership and interfere in sound planning.

  10. Posted by anonanon

    If 375 (PM northbound) averaged 98 percent, it would very likely go above 100 percent from time to time. But I’d love to see the percentage figure for the train I was on in August last year when both the Giants and the Raiders were playing at home on a Monday night.

  11. Posted by Jake

    According to Caltrain, the Giants hosted 12 games in August 2012 and they averaged about 7,200 additional riders for each game. They don’t break it out by game, but ~7,000/game is fairly typical through the season. Since they are counting each way, it is around ~3,500 people per game.
    According to an old 2007 Giants study (pdf at namelink), about 45% of their attendees take public transit, walk, or bike.
    It will be interesting to see what happens when the Giants build on their parking lots.

  12. Posted by anonanon

    Thanks for the stats! They pretty much confirm my experience. Home games add 3500 passengers to the 600-seat trains over the course of the rush-hour when the trains are likely to be full anyway.

  13. Posted by lyqwyd

    “That’s part of the reason our current transportation infrastructure is ill equipped to handle the addition of a 200-event-per-year basketball arena on the Embarcadero.”
    Yup, which is why it would be a good idea to secure stable funding for Caltrain, and improve it’s infrastructure with electrification / grade crossings.

  14. Posted by NJ

    Not to mention how much demand on Caltrain would increase from commuters into S.F. if the line were to be extended to the new Transbay Transit Center.

  15. Posted by Rillion

    Yes, I am sure a few seats lost to bikes is much more responsible for the crowding than a 38% increase in ridership over the last three years. Bikes are responsible for everything wrong in the world today.

  16. Posted by zig

    “Yup, which is why it would be a good idea to secure stable funding for Caltrain, and improve it’s infrastructure with electrification / grade crossings.”
    One of most cost effective investments in transit infrastructure the Bay Area can make. take it to the Transbay and that could be world class interurban transportation
    Much better than the bloated BART extensions to nowhere

  17. Posted by lyqwyd

    Agree 100%
    Caltrain is one of the most cost effective transit systems we have in the Bay Area. Getting it to the Transbay will be a huge win, and improve ridership tremendously.

  18. Posted by Can't think of cool name

    Agreed with CalTrain to Transbay terminal. Isn’t the current status to do so on hold though?

  19. Posted by Patrick

    I wonder if the plana is to let Caltrain fail, so BART can finally complete its nefarious plan to ring the bay! Mwahahahah!

  20. Posted by BigV

    @Annoyed — a big part of the ridership increase has been *because* of the increased bike capacity! The biggest challenge caltrain faces is the “last mile” problem, of getting commuters to and from the stations it serves. Bikes make that possible, and radically increases the catchment area of potential commuters. As bike capacity has increased, so has peoples ability to depend on getting on the train with their bikes which they need to get to the station, and/or to work at the far end. Every study of ridership has shown that bike riders are the fastest growing segment of caltrain riders.
    Now, even with 2 bike cars, the bike cars are regularly full and riders are being turned away. While a pedestrian can at least stand for the ride to work, bike riders, who have paid a ticket, are denied entry to the train. Can you imagine what that does to peoples work lives when they cannot make that meeting/deadline/interview/etc because they cannot get on the train?
    What caltrain really needs to do is get three bike cars on the newer bombadier trains, which have much lower capacity than the older galley trains. That would drastically help the situation.
    and, of course, with better and more stable funding they could probably run more trains — there were many service cuts in recent years which removed trains from the daily schedule. I know some have been returned, but I don’t think they are at full capacity of what the system *could* run.
    The biggest challenge Caltrain faces is that it is operated by San Mateo county, but serves the transportation needs of many other counties (San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Jose, etc). That makes the politics of funding much tricker.
    an integrated metropolitian transit agency would be really helpful.

  21. Posted by Unplugged

    The argument that one single additional bike car is to blame for the SRO situation is ludicrous.
    The non-bike gallery cars seat anywhere between 122 and 148 passengers, depending on whether there’s a bathroom, luggage rack or handicapped area. The equivalent bike cars seats 107-108, for a difference of anywhere between 14 and 41 lost seats per train.
    Add that during SRO situations the bike car easily has 15+ bike riders standing, and there are essentially 25 +/- passengers who theoretically could be sitting in a train that has over 800 passengers in an SRO situation. If you think that is the reason for the SRO situation, you are smoking crack.
    Add that that’s the WORST case scenario, as you really don’t know if some bike riders would choose not to take Caltrain if the bike cars were not available,
    I will give the caveat that I am not doing these numbers for Bombadier trains.

  22. Posted by Evans

    Bike demand mostly comes from reverse commute, standing room see traditional commute. So, both requirement will not confilict each other. However, FRA regulation makes this difficult. Caltrain need to find “flexible” option both bike and standing room but complied with FRA regulation.

  23. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    The most obvious solution is for Caltrain to run a few more rush hour express trains. The next most obvious solution is to add a car to some express trains and lengthen the platforms at the corresponding stations. Both cost more and I hope that the JPB can find the funds.

  24. Posted by Annoyed

    I am not anti-bike I am pro-fairness. Bicyclists are a minority of the overall commute, yet they get special treatment. I think that for crowded trains it would be reasonable to ask cyclists to either pay for the seat they are taking up OR give up their seat to a paying customer. I don’t mind subsidizing your bikes when I have a seat but I certainly do when I have to stand up for an hour.

  25. Posted by Evans

    Additional train (Running San Jose to San Francisco) need some additional funding.
    However additional train needs north of Sunnyvale where standing room start there. If they reduce some train south of Sunnyvale, they can add train without additional funding.
    To avoid inconvenience in south of Sunnyvale, all the baby bullet stop at Santa Clara and Lawrence. (Those stations will boost ridership, sure.)

  26. Posted by Unplugged

    “I am not anti-bike I am pro-fairness. Bicyclists are a minority of the overall commute, yet they get special treatment.”
    Same could be said for handicapped in a wheelchair, or passengers with luggage who use the luggage racks. In the name of fairness, should they also pay extra?

  27. Posted by BigV

    @Annoyed — the answer is not to bash bikes. The answer is to advocate for more caltrain funding and more trains. Bikes are an enabling feature of public transit — see my post above about why.
    And — bike riders end up standing too. They also suffer from the lack of train space. And worse, they get *denied* boarding if the bike train is full. Pedestrians do not have to put up with that monkey-wrench thrown into their day.
    more trains, more bike space, less driving.

  28. Posted by WhyNot?

    Are passengers with bikes charged more? If not, why not? I have to pay for luggage on planes now and bikes add weight and take up a lot of room.

  29. Posted by Unplugged

    If Caltrain or other local transit takes on the airlines’ business model of nickel and diming the customer, god help us all.

  30. Posted by motomayhem

    “Are passengers with bikes charged more? If not, why not? I have to pay for luggage on planes now and bikes add weight and take up a lot of room.”
    agree. they take up space and should pay at least 50% more

  31. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Caltrain has been floating trial balloons for quite a while regarding charging for bikes. They’ve also invested in endpoint bike parking (lockers, Warm Planet, etc.) to reduce demand for bikes-on-board.
    It isn’t just the bikes-on-board passengers who are getting a freebie. Most walk-on passengers get free parking all day at suburban stations, something a lot more valuable than free bikes-on-board.

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