Caltrain hikes fares 50 cents each way

Caltrain says it carries nearly 60 percent more passengers than it did five years ago

Caltrain commuters, prepare your wallets to take a hit. Caltrain plans to hike fares by 50 cents each way, effective Feb. 28, the commuter rail line announced Monday, Dec. 7.

All fares, including the day pass, 8-ride tickets and monthly passes, will go up. Clipper Card users will get a 15 percent discount off the increased fare, and discount fares for children, seniors and the disabled will be 50 percent of the increased adult price fare.

Beginning July 1, 2016, daily parking fees will also be increased at station parking lots to $5.50 from $5 and monthly parking permit fees will rise to $55 from $50.

Caltrain said it last adjusted fares on Oct. 5, 2014, when one-way cash fares were increased by 25 cents.

According to a 2015 Caltrain report, between 2009 and 2014, total operating costs rose 26 percent, while fare revenues increased 64 percent.

That increase in revenue parallels the train system's increase in ridership. "The railroad now carries nearly 60 percent more passengers on a typical weekday than it did five years ago," the report states.

So why increase the fare if revenues are up 64 percent? Increasing operating costs, along with a decrease in its on-time performance, are due partly to its old and increasingly heavily used equipment, Caltrain says. To allow for increased and more reliable daily trips, and lowered maintenance costs, Caltrain aims to transition to an electrified system by 2019, the report says.

Adina Levin, executive director of Friends of Caltrain and a member of the Caltrain citizen advisory committee, said the committee did not recommend increasing the fare, though it didn't oppose the hike either. She said the committee hadn't seen sufficient justification for this specific fare increase and wanted to first see the results of a study currently underway to analyze Caltrain's fare system.

Her biggest concerns are that the changes do little to promote equity and fairness in the system's pricing structure. She said that according to Caltrain's 2013 report, the average Caltrain rider makes $117,000 per year. An extra 50 cents each way is less likely to hurt those people than than lower-income people who are already priced out of riding Caltrain.

That effect is further compounded when top-earning corporations, desiring to offer competitive benefits, opt to offer their employees a "Go Pass." The Go Pass, which employers can purchase for $15,960 or at the price of $190 per employee in 2016 – so long as all employees who work at least 20 hours a week are included – allows the employees unlimited, year-round Caltrain use.

By comparison, a one-month adult pass for three zones, or the distance between Menlo Park and San Francisco, under the new fare, will cost $190.80.

However, Ms. Levin pointed out, the price of those passes makes it difficult for any but the largest and most affluent companies to purchase, and are distributed to workers who probably don't need the subsidized transit fare.

"It is a very good thing that Caltrain is now going to do their study to address ... corporate pricing, equity, fair structure and the cost of parking," she said.

● See new fares (PDF).

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42 people like this
Posted by fare hike
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 8, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Great! Ridership is way up, so let's raise fares and force some riders back onto El Camino and 101!

5 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 8, 2015 at 4:07 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

that's right, be negative about everything. Cost of fuel, maintenance, etc. Think. Has the area costs change. The answer is........yes.

Like this comment
Posted by fare hike
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Dec 8, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Fuel up?

SteveC: "Think."

Seriously, it's an elasticity curve: the benefits we all get from many taking mass transit vs fewer taking mass transit.

So we raise prices and fewer will use the service, hence a more crowded ECR and 101.

5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 8, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

fare hike:

I seriously doubt 50 cents a ride is going to drive people back into their cars if they're already taking Caltrain.

23 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 8, 2015 at 5:09 pm

How was the CalTrain rider income survey conducted? Not all riders are workers. Isn't 2 increases in 16 months unseemly when fuel costs in the same time have diminished? Too bad the parking lots aren't limited to riders only as many slots are used by others as a cheap alternative to overtime parking tickets in downtowns. Palo Alto is the only station where I can always find parking, at the southern end behind the hotels. Often, Menlo has no available parking spots & despite the urgings of the cycle crowd, not all of us live close enough or are well enough to bike to CalTrain.

18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 8, 2015 at 5:17 pm

The county and state puts too much money into highways and too little into public transit. Those merging lanes that were recently added to Hwy 101 cost $100,000,000 and seem to have little effect on overall traffic flow. We should invest more public money into improving frequency and capacity of public transit. These minor fare increases may cover maintenance cost increases, but are not significant enough to improve service.

Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 9, 2015 at 9:59 am

If the increased budget (what you get with increased fares) goes to RoW improvements, maintenance, upkeep, and perhaps more useful evening / weekend service, I am all for it.

If it goes towards more consultants, studies, proclamations, campaigns, and non-core functions like the holiday train (how much equipment / people / time are you tying up there for what's basically a publicity stunt?), then perhaps we need a change of management before a fare increase.

2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 9, 2015 at 12:15 pm

really? is a registered user.

It also goes to the $500K worth of compensation to Caltrain's new boss......

2 people like this
Posted by Tillie
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 9, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Back to the Samtrans system I has its problems, but it is still affordable and not too far of a walk for an old fart like me. I'd be curious to see how much of the fare increase will go toward HSR though.

7 people like this
Posted by Caltrain rider
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 9, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Ok, so ridership (and revenue) is at an all time high = time to raise prices. So how about when ridership falls (and revenue with it), will that equal "time to lower prices"

Just wondering, because otherwise this is simply a money grab, which most gov. programs seem to pass near the end of the year when people are too tired to care.


6 people like this
Posted by JBrant
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Dec 9, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Why don't they just raise parking fees instead?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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