Caltrain Ridership Numbers Rise Again

Jan 9th, 2013 | Posted by

Once again, Caltrain ridership is growing:

Caltrain ridership is continuing to climb, after the agency reported record-breaking ridership numbers throughout last year, Caltrain officials said Thursday.

Average weekday ridership in November 2012 was 47,326, which is an increase of 5,061 or 12 percent higher than the previous year.

On-time performance also improved, from 83 percent in October to 91 percent in November, according to Caltrain officials.

The increase in ridership brought a corresponding increase in farebox revenue, of $3,969,762 or 15.6 percent more than budgeted. Expenses also were down 3.5 percent for the month.

Caltrain’s ridership growth is fueled in part by a strong economic recovery in the Bay Area, as well as by the clear advantages of passenger rail over driving along the Peninsula corridor. As job growth and population growth continues in the area, it will become more important than ever that the Peninsula rail corridor be able to expand to handle all the ridership growth. Otherwise, Caltrain would have to start turning away passengers, which would be a ridiculous situation.

That’s one reason why the battle over the Caltrain/HSR EIS is so important. Peninsula NIMBYs want to prevent the rail corridor from ever expanding beyond two tracks, even though there is enough right-of-way to accommodate two more tracks for most of the route. While there aren’t plans to add more tracks in the immediate future, neither does it make sense to prevent future growth to accommodate ridership based on what a few NIMBYs think today.

Still, it’s great to see ridership continuing to rise, especially as Caltrain gets closer to its modernization and electrification project.

  1. Ted Judah
    Jan 10th, 2013 at 00:02

    If the NIMBYs succeed in limiting CalTrain’s ROW to being two tracked forever, it just heightens the argument to Ring the Bay ™ and have HSR use the existing ROW and build BART over it between Diridon and Milbrae.

    Be careful of what you wish for; you might just get it….

    synonymouse Reply:

    Once again from the top: PAMPA is much richer than the Tejon Ranch Co., which dictates to the CHSRA. San Jose is losing out; it is becoming a crime-ridden neo-Oakland. It did not even get the A’s.

    It was either BART or Caltrain. Move on, nothing happening here.

    J. Wong Reply:

    “PAMPA is much richer than the Tejon Ranch Co.”

    Oh, so that’s why Altamont is the preferred alignment.

    Clem Reply:

    Just give it a little time… this game is far, far from over

    joe Reply:

    Hey, a Cubs fan.

    Walter Reply:

    The only sense in which Altamont is “far, far from over” is that it’s been over for a long time.

    joe Reply:

    Altamont advocates say HSR crosses the Bay at Dumbarton. That crossing doesn’t help most well off San Mateo cities avoid HSR impacts.

    IMHO, the blended Caltrain ROW with HSR is a sure thing.

    Once they get to the UP tracks in Gilroy, they have a working rail line directly to SF. Maybe they connect there and electrify the ROW north in a blended approach at less cost or maybe they build full line to San Jose. TBD.

    Less clear is if BART interests see HSR gradually crowding out rival Caltrain and see HSR as an opportunity to offer BART as a substitute and connect BART Milbrae to BART San Jose/Santa Clara.

    Caltrain needs to extend itself south into San Jose and advocate for electrification along the full line to push back at BART Ring The Bay. if they sit still, I think they will, then the rail line is quite vulnerable.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    UP != working rail line.

    Joey Reply:

    As Alon said, the UP line between SJ and Gilroy is 100% unusable by HSR. Trains will not reach San José until a dedicated alignment is built.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    How is Caltrain supposed to electrify south of Tamien, much less putting HSR into there?
    Having to deal with UP seems like a good reason to abandon service south of Tamien.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The NIMBYs along Altamont are extremely rich too.

    And in PAMPA there are a lot of train supporters. Not as many along Altamont.

    VBobier Reply:

    None are as rich as the State of California, nor do they have the might to match their mouths.

    Clem Reply:

    They both seem rich to you, perhaps.

  2. Ben
    Jan 10th, 2013 at 10:49

    Has anyone had a chance to review what Jerry Brown’s 2013-2014 budget provides high speed rail?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    2013-2014 estimate is 2.1 billion in bonds and another 958 million in Federal funds for capital outlays.

    Mike Reply:

    That must be the estimated expenditure in 2013-14 from funds appropriated in 2012-13, right? I don’t think that the Governor is proposing to appropriate any additional construction funds at this point in time.

  3. Reality Check
    Jan 10th, 2013 at 11:06

    NTV carries 2 million passengers in first eight months

    Italian open-access high-speed operator NTV announced the results for its first eight months of operation on January 7, revealing it carried more than 2 million passengers on its Italo services from its launch on April 28 to the end of December.

    NTV has operated a total of 6485 trains with on-time performance of 94.4% and an average load factor of 51%. Total ridership during the period was 2.052 million.

    Passenger numbers have continued to build through the year with the launch of new routes, the most recent being the extension of services to Turin on December 8. NTV operated 1295 services during December and saw a 25% increase in monthly ridership.

  4. Jerry
    Jan 10th, 2013 at 15:48

    January 9, 1863. London subway opens. Carrying 40,000 passengers. Extra steam locomotives and cars were added to handle the crowds. Now, 150 years later, there are 3.5 million journeys each day.

  5. Reedman
    Jan 10th, 2013 at 16:05

    Caltrain operates at about a 50% farebox recovery rate. The more customers Caltrain has, the more money it loses (the bigger subsidy it needs). HSR says it will charge fares such that it is a break-even operational proposition (operating subsidies are supposed to be illegal under Prop 1A). If a rider takes HSR from Gilroy to SF, are they going to pay a “break even” fare or a 50% subsidized fare?

    Jon Reply:

    Break even fare (or more likely, for profit fare.)

    Caltrain will continue to charge a subsidized fare on the same route. You will have your choice of paying $13 for a 90 minute journey on Caltrain, or (maybe?) $25 for a 45 minute journey on HSR.

    joe Reply:

    “The more customers Caltrain has, the more money it loses (the bigger subsidy it needs). ”

    How does that work?

    As the ridership increased, the services’ fare-box cost recovery increased.

    Would running empty trains save money?

    Walter Reply:

    It’s the same as the “Amtrak loses $x per passenger” nonsense. It’s not that they did the division problem wrong, they just loaded the answer with a clearly bogus cause-and-effect idea.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Reedman, you don’t understand the economics of railroads.

    Here’s a hint:
    – the cost of operating one train trip is basically constant regardless of whether it’s full or empty
    – the revenue from passengers goes up when there are more people on the train

    The “farebox recovery ratio” is determined by dividing the revenue by the cost. Suppose I have a farebox recovery ratio of 50%. Suppose I keep the fare the same. Now, tell me what happens when the number of passengers on each train doubles? Simple math problem.

    Jonathan Reply:

    You forgot to stipulate that you’re running the same number of trains, in the same consists, at the same times of day/days of week, whilst your ridership doubles.

    Not entirely realistic. But it does make the point.

    Andy M Reply:

    If you’re running old, written-off trains, then adding services is about the additional staffing and fuel costs, plus some additional allowance for wear and tear.

    If you’re running modern and new trains, then the capital part of the cost is much bigger. So whether you’re leaving those trains parked up most of the day or whether you’re running them a smuch as you can, doesn’t have too large an overall impact.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Not really. Nathaniel said _doubling_ ridership, in response to Reedman. That only works if the train is half empty — or if your passengers are prepared to go from mostly-sitting to mostly-standing.

    Doubling ridership isn’t about “additional allowance for wear and tear”. Not on Caltrain.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Think on the margins. The rolling stock has already been purchased; it doesn’t matter for depreciation whether it’s new or old. So what actually matters is the marginal cost of running those trains, and then it’s better to run newer, more energy-efficient trains.

  6. John Burrows
    Jan 10th, 2013 at 18:08

    The last time I came home on Caltrain, (about 2 months ago) my car was was packed, with very little available standing room.
    When the train reached Menlo Park more passengers squeezed aboard including 2 ladies who were very concerned that the doors would shut on them as they tried to push their way aboard. I have ridden Caltrain many times over the years and had never seen anything like this on a regular workday. As I remember it was the afternoon early-commute—The one that was recently added.

    On a day to day basis I don’t use Caltrain often enough to know if this was out of the ordinary.

    John Burrows Reply:

    correction—I was on train #366, a baby bullet, and it was Palo Alto (not Menlo Park).

    joe Reply:

    The AM Bullet North (329) bound regularly becomes jammed at Sunnyvale and it’s very difficult to get off at PA. It’s a transfer for South County riders at Tamien.

  7. Peter
    Jan 11th, 2013 at 04:27

    What’s the potential for Caltrain to simply purchase some used Bombardier cars (pretty sure Metrolink has a lot of them sitting around now)? Wouldn’t this be a cheap way to add capacity?

    Evans Reply:

    How about exchange ACE’s Bombardia car with Caltrain’s Galarry Car until electrification? Pay some money to ACE and they reduce the fare for customer who is accepting old trainset.
    Then, most of express train (Baby Bullet and some express-local) can be run with 2-Door car.
    It is very questionable to handle ridership volume with current fleets until electrification.

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