Caltrain votes to cut service, raise faresBy Mike Rosenberg
Caltrain riders will be paying more money for less service starting in January after the commuter railroad's board approved a package of cuts to balance the budget Thursday.
Caltrain will raise fares an average of 7.2 percent and erase four trains from its weekday schedule as part of the plan to close a $2.3 million deficit.
It will cost 25 cents more for each new "zone" riders travel through -- there are four zones between San Francisco and San Jose and two more in the Gilroy extension. A one-way ticket between San Francisco and San Jose will cost $8.50, up 75 cents, and a monthly pass between the two cities will increase $20 to $225.
The agency expects the fare hike to generate $1.4 million in new revenue.
It's the first fare increase since base one-way tickets rose 25 cents in January 2009.
The monthly rate for the employer-sponsored Go Pass will also rise $15 to $155, the second increase in as many years. That should net Caltrain another $150,000.
In addition, two trains from opposite ends that leave around 9:30 a.m. and another pair of trains that depart at roughly 2:30 p.m. will go out of service. It will leave the rail line with hourly service from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and save $175,000.
The daily schedule will shrink to 86 trains, a decrease of 12 percent from the peak in summer 2009.
Finally, the rail line will shutter its two ticket offices, in San Jose and San Francisco, starting Monday. Caltrain will cut seven jobs as part of the move and save $600,000 annually.
The agency's managers will now go to work trying to balance the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July. The deficit is expected to rise close to $30 million because of an anticipated drop in subsidies from local counties.
"I want to caution the riding public: We are looking at a structural (ongoing) deficit," said board member Omar Ahmad, vice mayor of San Carlos. "That's going to come head-first in July."
In a piece of positive news for riders, the agency said it will start running two round-trip Baby Bullet trains on Saturdays and Sundays in response to complaints that the current weekend service is too slow.
The pilot program will run at least three months, and each train will save time by stopping only at roughly seven stations. Rail Transportation Director Michelle Brouchard said ridership on the trains must increase at least 10 percent for the agency to afford keeping the service.
"We are asking our customers to vote with their feet," she said.
Cuts, fare hikes to close deficit Annual savings/new revenue
Fare hike of 25 cents per zone $1.4 million
Close ticket offices in San Francisco, San Jose $600,000
Eliminate four midday trains $175,000
Increase monthly Go Pass by $15 $150,000
Total $2.3 million
Map of budget savings
Caltrain's four stops along the track to $2.3 million in savings.
Fare hike of 25 cents per zone
Close ticket offices in San Francisco, San Jose
Eliminate four midday trains
Increase monthly Go Pass by $15
Extra revenue to fill deficit
Copyright ©2010 San Mateo County Times. Published 10/02/2010.