Daily Journal file photo
Caltrain rider or a regular user who parks at the station, fees are expected to rise â€" in some cases between 14 percent and 50 percent.
Riding Caltrain has become so popular, the transit agency says its budget is having a hard time keeping up.
In striving to close a nearly $20 million hole, Caltrain is looking to increase ticket prices and parking fees.
Whether youâ€™re an employer trying to encourage workers to take public transit, a casual Caltrain rider or a regular user who parks at the station, fees are expected to rise â€” in some cases between 14 percent and 50 percent.
Caltrain is one of the few transit agencies that doesnâ€™t have its own dedicated funding source to cover operations. Instead, it often relies on support from the three territories in which it spans and the jurisdictions that make up its member agencies â€” Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.
The agencies are now unable to cover an anticipated $20.7 budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year, prompting Caltrain to look at ways to accommodate its record-setting ridership demand that requires it to maintain an aging diesel system, according to the agency.
Caltrain Communications Manager Russ Arnold said while electrification is the end goal, in the meantime keeping the system in a state of good repair is driving potential changes.
â€śThe cost of that is a reality, itâ€™s part of this budget deficit as we continue to try maintaining aging equipment and keep it out there at the level people expect,â€ť Arnold said.
Transportation and congestion are hot topic in nearly every Bay Area community, and the agency will have to determine how it can continue incentivizing people to use public transit while covering its own operations.
Under the umbrella of the San Mateo County Transit District, Arnold noted its goal for the Peninsula is to improve mobility whether it be trains, buses or making room for more cars on roads.
â€śWeâ€™re very cognizant of it and weâ€™re trying to be very mindful of striking a balance between realizing that vision and supporting the community that way, as well as running a service responsibly,â€ť he said.
While no decisions have been made and the board could ultimately tweak the proposals, the public is encouraged to weigh in on the suggested increases â€”Â some of which are substantial.
Monthly passes for riders will also increase between 13 percent and about 24 percent depending on how far one plans to travel. Those just traversing one zone will see rates rise from $84.80 to $96 a month; while riders traveling six zones could expect to pay $433.50 instead of $349.80 per month. Driving to the train would also become more expensive as monthly parking rates will also increase 50 percent from $55 to $82.50, according to Caltrain.
In 2016, Caltrain raised prices by a flat 50 cents. But now itâ€™s looking to increase standard ticket prices 25 cents per zone â€”Â meaning the further you ride, the more expensive the ticket. People would also no longer be able receive discounted eight-ride tickets, although the proposal is to create a pilot program for discounted evening and weekend riders, according to Caltrain.
Another large increase could actually be to employers who encourage their workers to take public transit as Caltrain has proposed hiking the Go Pass fares 50 percent, from $190 per person to $285. Participating in the flat-fee annual program requires a minimum base rate, which would increase from $15,960 to $23,940. The Go Pass program is open to employers, schools or even large apartment complexes, according to Caltrain.
Staff hosted a public meeting this past Wednesday to gather feedback on the proposed increases. Attendees were generally supportive of increasing the rate of the Go Pass, as some felt the historically low rate was overly subsidized for employers. There were some concerns, however, about the monthly rate increases for passes and parking, with some urging more research to be done, Arnold said.
For those who missed the meeting, there will be other opportunities for the public to weigh in. Caltrain staff will be at 11 different stations Tuesday, May 23, to hear directly from customers. There will also be a public meeting the morning of Thursday, July 6, as the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board will review the changes. Comments can also be submitted online through a survey or via email, according to Caltrain.
â€śWe encourage you to give us formal feedback,â€ť Arnold said, noting it would be used to inform the boardâ€™s decision. â€śMake your voice heard.â€ť
Visit caltrain.com for more information or to submit comments on the proposed rate increases.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106