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Fare increases, cut in service likely for Caltrain

Original post made on May 12, 2009

Caltrain riders are facing the possibility of a fee hike, a new fee for bringing a bicycle on board, and the elimination of weekend service as the Caltrain Board of Directors wrestles with a projected $10.1 million deficit in fiscal year 2009-10.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 13, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (12)

Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 12, 2009 at 4:40 pm

I imagine the following scenario: They raise fees. They cut service. That, of course, reduces the number of riders. In which case, they need to cut service even further and therefore need to also raise fees. Cut service. Raise fees. You can see this process working it's way to a logical conclusion. No service. No riders. No fees. No muss, no fuss, no bother, no trains. Budget zeroed out. Problem finally solved!


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 12, 2009 at 5:31 pm

It is cheaper to drive my car than to use Caltrain.


Posted by Gern Blanston, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 12, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Imagine buying out Union Pacific's interest in the peninsula right-of-way, doing away with CalTrain and the HSR fantasy running up the peninsula, and building a bicycle/pedestrian/pedicab greenbelt plus retail oases stretching unbroken from San Francisco to San Jose and further south. Sure, many commuters who need CalTrain would lose out, but think about what the Bay Area would gain. And the initial cost? Perhaps a few years's financial support of CalTrain, or some reasonable multiplier thereof.

Gern


Posted by Casey J., a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 13, 2009 at 10:54 am

Martin's right: Making public transit expensive, time-consuming, and inconvenient is a recipe for failure.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 13, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Joanna noted that it's cheaper to drive her car.

I won't argue with that, but I would point out that the train offers the advantage of reading or relaxing while traveling. What is that worth?

Similarly, were Caltrain to be converted to a bike path/greenway as Gern Blanston suggests, the benefit there is exercise and enjoying being outside while traveling. What is that worth?

Full disclosure: I can't stand driving and will do almost anything to avoid it.


Posted by Frank, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 13, 2009 at 12:10 pm

As much as I would hate to see Caltrain cut back, it seems that cutting back on midday service would not be so horrible... clearly better than cutting weekend service, for example. I have a car, but I have many friends who don't and who have no other practical way to get around the peninsula.


Posted by Donna, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 13, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Save the weekend train service!


Posted by Environmentally aware, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Martin hit the nail on the head. The worse the service, the fewer the riders--self-fulfilling self-destruction. Charge more for bikes? Sure, discourage bike riders. Eliminate weekend service? Sure, put more cars on the road. If we want to get away from living in our cars, we need to invest in and support mass transit. We haven't learned a thing from high gas prices.


Posted by Steven Jung, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 13, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I believe there are environmental benefits to the use of Caltrain for commuting relative to use of personal automobiles. These benefits need to get factored in to any cost-benefit equations. Stated another way, the full costs of using personal automobiles relative to mass transit need to be calculated, including the environmental costs, and taken into consideration.


Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 14, 2009 at 10:58 pm

What if our public schools, hit by budget cuts, were to cut back on classrooms and school days? Sorry, we can't take all your kids; we have to cut services.

My point is that until and unless public mass transit is considered a government (meaning tax based) responsibility and a necessary public utility, like education, Caltrain is doomed to go through its hopeless perennial struggle.

Will high-speed rail help them? They may think so because they believe they are in the railroad business, where 'more' and 'newer' is better. They don't realize that they are in the transportation business, and therefore are doomed to fail in it.

Hello, Caltrain. It's not about your trains, it's about your customers. It's about getting them from home to work and back. You are first and foremost a service provider, not a choo-choo train operator. You may think that electrifying will make you better, but it won't get Jane Doe from her house to the office any better. Can you understand the difference?

What they could do, if they were smart business people, was charge the high-speed rail authority rent for using our rail corridor. (It's ours because we paid for it, and are still paying for it with our taxes; it's public, not private.) That rental income, or lease fees, would cover their operating deficits and also pay for capital improvements.

Right now, they intend to let the HSR people use it for free, even though the rail authority claims they will be profitable. That's a lousy business deal. All HSR is willing to do is fix it up so they can use it for their high speed trains. Although Caltrain will certainly benefit from the capital improvements, those improvements will amortize. And, after that, what will Caltrain get from HSR, forever? Bubkis.


Posted by Rhoda Railey, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 15, 2009 at 11:06 am

Considering the state of the roads in California, the cost of Caltrain as compared with driving might start looking better and better. I nearly lost an axle on 101 in Burlingame the other day.


Posted by Joan, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 18, 2009 at 10:26 am

"My point is that until and unless public mass transit is considered a government (meaning tax based) responsibility and a necessary public utility, like education, Caltrain is doomed to go through its hopeless perennial struggle."

Martin, you've identified the heart of the problem perfectly. And not only is Caltrain doomed to go through this perennial struggle because of our short-sighted approach to mass transit, BART, Samtrans, light rail and other means to get people out of their cars will go through it too. And how much do you want to bet that, if high speed rail really gets built, the cost of riding will be so high that moderate and low income people won't be able to use it?

We've got to change the way we think about providing mass transit. Getting people out of their cars is extremely beneficial to the environment and to our health and safety overall, and subsidizing it is a tremendously wise investment -- just like public education.


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