Fare increase, service reductions hit CaltrainBy Staff
The Caltrain Board of Directors today voted to implement a 25 cent increase to the zone fare and to eliminate four midday trains to close a $2.3 million gap its 2010 fiscal year operating budget.
Beginning Jan. 1, the fare for each zone will increase 25 cents, with multi-ride tickets and passes adjusted accordingly. The fare for a one way ticket from San Francisco to San Jose will increase from $7.75 to $8.50. The increase will generate approximately $1.4 million in additional revenue this fiscal year. The last fare increase was implemented in January 2009.
Also on Jan. 1, four midday trains (northbound: 237 and 257, southbound: 236 and 256) will be eliminated between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., so trains will operate hourly. This change will save the agency approximately $160,000.
Only two southbound trains go to Morgan Hill and Gilroy, trains 270 and 276, and three northbound trains to Morgan Hill and Gilroy, 217, 221 and 227. No train service to South County are included in Caltrain's cuts.
In response to comments from people during the public hearing process, Caltrain also will implement a three-month pilot project to test the success of express service on weekends. The schedule, which is yet to be determined, will be designed to meet ridership demand. The $107,000 cost of the pilot project will be offset by fuel savings accrued this year.
Caltrain also will increase on-board bicycle capacity, assuring that all trains will have two bike cars. In the past two years, Caltrain has increased on-board bike capacity by more than 56 percent.
In addition, the price of the Go Pass will increase from $140 to $155. The employer-sponsored annual pass offers unlimited rides on Caltrain through all zones, seven days a week for one low annual cost. The pass is purchased by employers for all of their full-time employees. This increase brings Caltrain's cost for the program closer to revenue neutrality and is expected to generate an additional $150,000 in revenue.
A list of changes to the codified tariff that will bring the agency in line with Clipper, a regional fare card, also was approved.
In another effort to close the budget gap, the ticket offices at the San Francisco and San Jose Diridon station will close Oct. 11, resulting in a savings of $600,000. Caltrain staff has done extensive outreach to inform riders about other options for purchasing tickets. All Caltrain fare media can be purchased at ticket vending machines located in Caltrain stations.
The service cuts and fee increases are the agency's latest effort to close its budget deficit. Over the last two years Caltrain has aggressively looked for ways to balance its budget. Salaries have been frozen for the last two years, employees will take a total of 17 furlough days and the agency also implemented a hiring freeze for all but the most essential positions. Last year, the agency underwent an extensive reorganization, laying off employees and eliminating two executive-level positions.
"Caltrain is a lean organization," said Deputy CEO Chuck Harvey. "Wages and benefits make up just 6.5 percent of the total operating budget." The commuter railroad, which is owned by a partnership of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Mateo County Transit District and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, is able to keep costs low by using the San Mateo County Transit District to manage its administrative functions instead of having a dedicated, full-time staff.
Copyright ©2010 Gilroy Dispatch. Published 10/07/2010.