Caltrain's survival: Is it high-speed rail or bust?While Menlo Park and Atherton contest in court the state's decision to run its high-speed-rail system along the Caltrain corridor, Caltrain officials are claiming that high-speed-rail may be the only way to save the commuter rail system.
In exchange for use of the Caltrain right-of-way, the state would pay to run both high-speed-rail and Caltrain engines on an electrified system. The commuter rail agency maintains that a switch from diesel to electric would provide more revenue, and may be the only way to keep the system alive.
"Without an ability to expand capacity and attract new riders with improved service, the system's structural deficit will continue to increase and will eventually threaten the entire Caltrain system," the agency wrote in a press release issued April 23 — three days after Menlo Park's City Council voted to join Atherton in petitioning to re-open a lawsuit over the planned high-speed-rail route.
With both the number of riders and the amount of contributions from regional governments dwindling, Caltrain is contemplating major service cuts, including the possible elimination of everything but commute-hour trains.
But even with electrification, Caltrain is projecting a $26.5 million deficit within 10 years, a figure that represents about one-third of its projected annual operating budget in 10 years.
Caltrain estimates that electrification would cost over $1.5 billion, a tab that the high-speed-rail authority would pick up.