caltrain.jpg3:13 PM: In an ongoing effort to close a $2.3 million budget gap, the Caltrain Board of Directors approved fare increases and service reductions on Thursday, a spokeswoman said today.

Caltrain, which serves an estimated 38,000 people every weekday, also intends to pilot a trial express weekend service program early next year, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

All of the changes voted upon on Thursday were discussed at length during three community meetings in August and one public hearing in September, Dunn said. About 1,700 community comments were submitted at the meetings or via e-mail, mail, or telephone input, she said.

“Most people were in favor of increasing the fare and keeping as much service as possible,” Dunn said.

Starting on Jan. 1, it will cost an additional 25 cents per zone to ride Caltrain, Dunn said. The price of travel within one zone will remain the same, she said. The fare increase is expected to bring in an additional $1.4 million in annual revenue, she said.

The increase will raise the price of a trip from San Francisco to San Jose from $7.75 to $8.50, Dunn said. Day passes will increase by 50 cents per zone, according to a new fare chart, and eight-ride passes will increase by $1.50 after the first zone and $2 per zone after.

Monthly and discount passes will also cost more for commutes that exceed one zone, Dunn said. Finally, the price of Go Passes – which are purchased by employers to provide their full-time employees with unlimited Caltrain rides through all zones seven days a week – will go up from $140 to $155, Dunn said.

The increase in Go Pass prices is expected to garner $150,000 in addition revenue, which would better balance out the cost of operating the program, Dunn said.

“(The Go Pass program) is very cool, but we pay a lot of money for it,” Dunn said. “We were forced to raise the price and we hope that makes it revenue neutral for us. We’re not in a position where we can afford to be losing money.”

The last Caltrain fare increase was in January 2009, when the prices of all tickets and passes were increased by a flat 25 cents, Dunn said. This increase is larger because the fare increases more with each additional zone on the commute.

Caltrain officials expect to save about $160,000 from the elimination of four train routes between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on weekdays, Dunn said. The northbound 237 and 257 trains and southbound 236 and 256 lines will not run during those midday hours beginning Jan. 1, cutting the train frequency in half, she said.

“People did not want to see the weekend service or service to Gilroy eliminated,” Dunn said, referring to a community outpouring against those proposed eliminations during the public hearing process.

An additional $600,000 is expected to be saved from the elimination of ticket offices at the San Francisco and San Jose Diridon stations starting Monday, Dunn said. The change leaves just ticket vending machines to serve Caltrain riders paying their fares at those stations.

Amtrak will reassign the seven employees that were filling those ticket offices to new positions, Dunn said.

Internal changes at Caltrain over the past two years to balance the budget have included salary and hiring freezes, lay offs and the elimination of two executive positions last year, Dunn said. Between 2008 and 2010, Caltrain employees were also forced to take a total of 17 furlough days, she said.

“Caltrain is a lean organization,” said the railway’s deputy CEO, Chuck Harvey, in a statement. “Wages and benefits make up just 6.5 percent of the total operating budget.”

Caltrain is operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, a partnership between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Mateo County Transit District, and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Dunn said.

On Thursday the board also voted on changes to Caltrain’s codified tariff – the mandate for all rules regarding railway fares -that would bring the agency in line with new regional Clipper smart card use.

Under the new tariff, which will be implemented on Jan. 1, multi-ride tickets may no longer be used by more than one person, Dunn said. Also, monthly passes will no longer be good until noon of the first day of the following month, Dunn said.

New monthly passes will have to be purchased in time for the first of the month, she said.

Another change to the tariff alters the definition of “youth” to mean any person 17 years of age or younger, Dunn said. The previous definition allowed 18-year-olds who were still in high school to be eligible for youth passes, she said.

The final Clipper-related change to the tariff was to put a mandate in place that would allow Caltrain to charge riders for the purchase of a Clipper card in the future, Dunn said. Money cannot be loaded onto Clipper cards at Caltrain stations, she said.

Though new cards are currently free at Caltrain stations, Thursday’s tariff change would allow the railway to increase the price of an unloaded card in the future without going through the public hearing process and changing the tariff again, Dunn said.

Also beginning Jan. 1, Caltrain will launch a three-month pilot project that will test the success of express weekend service that commuters have requested, Dunn said. The schedule, which has yet to be determined, will be designed around rider demand, she said.

The pilot project will cost Caltrain about $107,000, Dunn said. That money will come from savings generated by fuel prices being lower than what Caltrain had budgeted for, Dunn said.

The board also voted to increase the on-board bicycle capacity of many trains, Dunn said. The vote would assure that all trains have two bike cars, which would add one 40-bike gallery car to the trains that currently only have one, she said.

Dunn said the bike capacity expansion could not proceed until some form of funding had been secured, probably through a grant. On-board bike capacity has increased on trains by more than 56 percent over the past two years, she said.

12:55 PM: In an ongoing effort to close a massive budget gap, the Caltrain Board of Directors approved fare increases and service reductions on Thursday, a spokeswoman said today.

Caltrain, which serves an estimated 38,000 people every weekday, is working to close a $2.3 million budget gap with the elimination of certain routes and increases in fares and pass prices to be implemented at the beginning of next year, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

Caltrain also intends to start a trial express weekend service program next year, Dunn said.

All of the changes voted upon on Thursday were discussed at length with community members and Caltrain riders during three community meetings in August and one public hearing in September, Dunn said. About 1,700 comments were submitted at the meetings or via email, mail, or telephone input, she said.

“Most people were in favor of increasing the fare and keeping as much service as possible,” Dunn said.

Starting on Jan. 1, it will cost an additional 25 cents per zone to ride Caltrain, Dunn said. The price of fares for travel within the same zone will remain the same, she said. The fare increase is expected to bring in an additional $1.4 million in annual revenue, she said.

The last fare increase to Caltrain tickets was in January 2009, when the prices of all tickets and passes were increased by a flat 25 cents, Dunn said. This increase is larger because the fare increase goes up with each additional zone on the commute.

Caltrain officials expect to save about $160,000 from the elimination of four trains between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on weekdays, Dunn said. The northbound 237 and 257 trains and southbound 236 and 256 lines will not run during those midday hours beginning Jan. 1, she said.

An additional $600,000 is expected to be saved from the elimination of ticket offices at the San Francisco and San Jose Diridon stations starting Monday, Dunn said. That change leaves just ticket vending machines to serve Caltrain riders paying their fares at those stations.

Amtrak will reassign the seven employees that were filling those ticket offices to new positions, Dunn said.

Also beginning January 1, Caltrain will launch a three-month pilot project that will test the success of express weekend service that commuters have requested, Dunn said. The schedule, which has yet to be determined, will be designed around rider demand, she said.

The pilot project will cost Caltrain about $107,000, Dunn said. That money will come from savings generated by fuel prices being lower than what Caltrain had budgeted for, Dunn said.

The board also voted to increase the on-board bicycle capacity of many trains, Dunn said. The vote would assure that all trains have two bike cars, which would add one 40-bike gallery car to the trains that currently only have one, she said.

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  • John Murphy

    “Also beginning January 1, Caltrain will launch a three-month pilot project that will test the success of express weekend service that commuters have requested, Dunn said. The schedule, which has yet to be determined, will be designed around rider demand, she said.”

    The “requesting” was done in large part here…

    http://www.murphstahoe.com/caltrain

    While we got the service, I would ask that anyone interested in the weekend service sign on, specifying your desired stations and putting info like “I would like bullets to run at 7 PM” in the comments. I’ll be packaging that stuff up for Caltrain – their user outreach is not very good.

    They specified that they are shooting for 10% ridership increase on weekend expresses vs a current local weekend run, and basically said that it’s up to us (the ridership) to drive that. It sucks that their marketing is not very creative or aggressive, but I want these trains so whaddya gonna do? So it is incumbent upon the ridership to help Caltrain select the schedule that will succeed. They are going to do 2 trips each direction on Saturday and Sunday – times and schedules TBD.

    So for example, they could run from SJ to SF at 10 AM and 5 PM, and have trains leave SF at 2 PM and 9 PM. This would give a Peninsula citizen an 11 AM to 2 PM window to shop or wander around, or a 6 PM to 9 PM window to have dinner, in SoMa, while taking bullets, and a SF rider could do a 2:40 to 5:20 warm weather session in Mountain View. This is just an example, but you get my point.

    Hopefully they’ll be flexible and work on optimizing it. If we can get to baseball season, a bullet train serving the Giants weekend games would be standing room only.

  • John Murphy

    “Also beginning January 1, Caltrain will launch a three-month pilot project that will test the success of express weekend service that commuters have requested, Dunn said. The schedule, which has yet to be determined, will be designed around rider demand, she said.”

    The “requesting” was done in large part here…

    http://www.murphstahoe.com/caltrain

    While we got the service, I would ask that anyone interested in the weekend service sign on, specifying your desired stations and putting info like “I would like bullets to run at 7 PM” in the comments. I’ll be packaging that stuff up for Caltrain – their user outreach is not very good.

    They specified that they are shooting for 10% ridership increase on weekend expresses vs a current local weekend run, and basically said that it’s up to us (the ridership) to drive that. It sucks that their marketing is not very creative or aggressive, but I want these trains so whaddya gonna do? So it is incumbent upon the ridership to help Caltrain select the schedule that will succeed. They are going to do 2 trips each direction on Saturday and Sunday – times and schedules TBD.

    So for example, they could run from SJ to SF at 10 AM and 5 PM, and have trains leave SF at 2 PM and 9 PM. This would give a Peninsula citizen an 11 AM to 2 PM window to shop or wander around, or a 6 PM to 9 PM window to have dinner, in SoMa, while taking bullets, and a SF rider could do a 2:40 to 5:20 warm weather session in Mountain View. This is just an example, but you get my point.

    Hopefully they’ll be flexible and work on optimizing it. If we can get to baseball season, a bullet train serving the Giants weekend games would be standing room only.