Caltrain's Real Problem | On a Roll | Paul Bendix | Almanac Online |

Local Blogs

By Paul Bendix

Caltrain's Real Problem

Uploaded: Nov 1, 2013

I hear all sorts of complaints about Caltrain. Principally: the trains are crowded and noisy. And there aren't enough of them.

Which reminds me of an old joke. Nursing home residents are discussing the food. "It's awful," one says, "and the portions are so small."

My advice: be patient with Caltrain. The commuter rail line has reached an awkward stage, but the future is worth the wait.

By the end of this decade Caltrain will be electrified. Riding the line will be faster, quieter and more frequent. With any luck Caltrain will tunnel to its ultimate destination, San Francisco's Transbay Center in the heart of a city.

For now, the line's railcars are aging and rattling -- yet they need to remain in service for a few more years. This comes as ridership has reached unprecedented levels. Caltrain is rumored to be looking for used equipment to meet short-term needs. Still, as the line modernizes there will be growing pains.

There's a more systemic pain: money. Caltrain has no direct funding. Relying on annual contributions from three counties, its infrastructure keeps improving while its financial structure remains weak.

Want a permanent fix to Caltrain's problems? Demand a revenue source as reliable as, say, BART's.

Caltrain is essential to our future. The local economy is doing well, people flocking to the region...which puts Peninsula commuters in a squeeze. Our freeways can't grow – but Caltrain can.