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Caltrain staff proposes fare hike

Original post made on Aug 5, 2008

Caltrain is considering increasing its fares to offset fuel costs, an agency spokeswoman said Tuesday.
  • Caltrain reports record ridership again.


    Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 5, 2008, 2:47 PM
  • Comments (8)

     +   Like this comment
    Posted by Resident
    a resident of another community
    on Aug 5, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    If there is record ridership and the trains are no longer, why do they need a fare hike to offset higher priced fuel? This does not wash.

    Instead they could try selling the seats on offpeak trains with offpeak special rates for families or tourists. These seats travel empty and getting passengers to use them would be bonus funds for them.

    Caltrain should be much more innovative now that gas is so expensive and attracting passengers rather than making it more expensive for commuters would be a great start.


     +   Like this comment
    Posted by Washer
    a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
    on Aug 5, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Resident, you don't have enough information to determine whether this washes or not. You need to know what percentage of revenue comes from ticket sales, and what percentage of expenses is due to fuel costs. Then you can figure out whether a 15% increase in ridership will compensate for a 32% increase in fuel costs.


     +   Like this comment
    Posted by Joanna
    a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
    on Aug 6, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I find it noteworthy that it is cheaper for me to drive than to take the train. Even within one or two "zones."


     +   Like this comment
    Posted by Donald
    a resident of another community
    on Aug 6, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Joanna, are you considering all costs or just gas costs? The real cost of driving, including maintenance and insurance, is much higher than the cost of the fuel. Employee mileage reimbursement rates reflect this total cost of driving and are $0.56 - $0.58 per mile right now. At $2.25 for one zone and $4.00 for two zones, Caltrain is a good deal.


     +   Like this comment
    Posted by Skinflint & Co
    a resident of Menlo Park: other
    on Aug 7, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Wow, my company only reimburses us 42 cents per mile. Where do you work, Donald?


     +   Like this comment
    Posted by Donald
    a resident of another community
    on Aug 7, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Stanford reimburses auto use at $0.585 per mile, which is the IRS standard rate for the second half of 2008. Unfortunately this applies only to auto use, and there is no reimbursement for bicycle use.


     +   Like this comment
    Posted by Sunnyvale resident
    a resident of another community
    on Aug 8, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Washer, Thanks for explanation. Since the train fare covers less than half of operating cost, fare increase cannot be avoidable. Only the way to avoid the fare increase will be adding more passenger to current train capacity. Which is better? higher fare or standing room only trains?


     +   Like this comment
    Posted by Martin Engel
    a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
    on Aug 9, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Like all urban mass transit everywhere, costs are split between subsidies from various government sources (all of them our tax dollars, of course) and ticket sales. In some cases, the ticket sales are merely a small percentage of total operating costs, the government bearing most of the expenses. In a few cases, ticket sales may be as much as 40% or even 50%, but never more.

    Needless to say, for the operators, it's a constant struggle to get more revenues from ticket sales by appealing to more riders (Caltrain does that) and therefore incurring more costs with more trains, pulling more cars, etc. Therefore, Caltrain lives with a structural deficit, since government sources are never sufficient.

    So, here's the problem in oversimplified terms. At one extreme, the government could pay for all of it. It's a public utility, like public schools, and getting around on mass transit would be free. Some of us would call that Socialism.

    At the other extreme, private profit-making vendors without any government subsidies would operate it. That would be called free-market economics or pure Capitalism.
    Most of us seem to be happiest with something in between. And, that's the issue.

    And, here's where I stand on all this: If the transit operators recognized themselves to be in the urban mass transit business (not the train business, or the bus business, etc.), were coordinated, linked, networked, integrated and whatever it takes to make them efficient and convenient for the largest number of people at the lowest cost, without waste, fraud and abuse, and were accountable to the public, I would have no trouble having my tax dollars fully support such a system. I would want ticket sales only for accounting purposes. Or, something pretty close to that.

    Caltrain does not yet understand what business it is in. They still believe themselves to be in the train business. They believe that repackaging themselves (with new whizzy trains, electrification, etc.) will make them more attractive to riders, they will get more riders, they will have more revenue and they will get out of debt. Unfortunately that is an incorrect assumption. "We lose on every customer, but we make it up in volume," as the old joke goes.

    Finally, I would ask, like some of the air carriers, why didn't Caltrain lock in its Diesel fuel costs in contract form well in advance, as prices have been climbing for some time?


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