Discussion related to commuter rail and transit operators in California past and present including Los Angeles Metrolink and Metro Subway and Light Rail, San Diego Coaster, Sprinter and MTS Trolley, Altamont Commuter Express (Stockton), Caltrain and MUNI (San Francisco), Sacramento RTD Light Rail, and others...

Moderator: lensovet

  by Jeff Smith
Behind a paywall: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/art ... 258265.php
A shutdown of all Caltrain service would be under “serious consideration” were it not for the $49.3 million the transportation agency received from the Cares Act — but it’s still a looming possibility, transit officials said.

Caltrain spokesman Dan Lieberman told The Chronicle on Friday that a potential shutdown is still a possibility if the agency — which reported a 95% decline in ticket sales on the first day of the regional shelter-in-place order — doesn’t secure additional funding.
  by NH2060
Wow. That would be more than just an inconvenience to those who still depend on it to get to/from work.

Seeing as Governor Newsom isn’t ready or willing to give any kind of green light for reopening (and who knows how many residents might be ready to move out of state if they can’t afford to be out of work in a state with high tax rates, cost of living, etc. especially in the San Francisco Bay Area) I think this could very well be a possibility.
  by eolesen
With reduced operating schedules, finding other ways to work is already an issue for a lot of people.

It might be cheaper for CalTrans to issue Uber vouchers for essential workers.
  by Pensyfan19
Is this full shutdown "temporary" so to speak until COVID restrictions are lifted, or.... permanently???

https://www.sfgate.com/public-transport ... 409892.php
The future of Caltrain is uncertain.

The cash-strapped agency faces a potential shutdown of its rail commuter line after a bid to put a sales tax on the November ballot failed. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors failed to support it at a Tuesday meeting.

Caltrain is in a dire budget situation as the agency is reliant on fare revenue and ridership is down due to the pandemic. A sales tax in the three counties where it operates — San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara — would have provided a new revenue stream to keep train service afloat.
"With the COVID pandemic heavily impacting our ridership, this has put the agency in a very challenging financial situation that it may not be able to survive," Caltrain spokesperson Dan Lieberman said.

The boards of supervisors in all three counties needed to approve the tax measure in order for it to be placed on the November ballot. Approval from the Caltrain board was also necessary.
San Mateo approved it in April and the San Mateo Daily Journal reported "to keep it alive, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors had to introduce a resolution in support of it during a meeting Tuesday."

Several dozen community members spoke at the virtual meeting in support of the tax, but the board did not introduce the measure at the meeting.

"Prior to the pandemic, Caltrain was exploring ways to expand its service," said Lieberman. "Now we're working to find a way to stay afloat long enough for our ridership to return to work, and this decision has taken one of our most promising options off the table and the thousands of riders on the Caltrain system will suffer for it. It is particularly frustrating in the face of the broad support behind the measure, from equity groups, businesses, transit advocates, labor unions, environmentalists, and the full Caltrain State legislative delegation."

Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with commute service to Gilroy. Before a shelter-in-place order was issued by the state of California in mid-March, Caltrain had seen its ridership double in the last 15 years with trains transporting nearly 65,000 daily riders. Since the pandemic, ridership has dramatically dropped. At its lowest point, reduced train service operated with about 1,500 riders a day. In late June, the agency reported ridership was at about 3,200 a day.
  by Pensyfan19
Not all is lost however.

https://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2 ... ot-measure
A San Francisco supervisor says he’ll try to revive a ballot measure that Caltrain says is necessary to avoid a complete shutdown of the San Francisco-San Jose commuter rail operation. The San Francisco Chronicle reports Supervisor Matt Haney said that at the board’s next meeting, he will bring up the proposal for a an eighth of a cent sales tax. The tax would create a dedicated funding stream for Caltrain, which currently is heavily reliant on fares for revenue and is facing a massive deficit because of plummeting ridership during the coronavirus pandemic. The measure must be approved by boards in all three counties where Caltrain operates, but San Francisco’s board of supervisors declined to act this week. [See “Digest: Caltrain could face shutdown after San Francisco supervisors fail to support ballot measure,” July 15, 2020.] Two board members object to the commuter railroad’s governing structure and say the sales tax proposal is regressive.
  by lensovet
It's unclear what the future holds. A large percentage of Caltrain's ridership was folks in the tech sector, and it's unclear to me what the long-term future of in-office, silicon valley-based tech really is. Already multiple companies have told their employees that they can work remotely permanently, people are starting to move away, and the longer this drags on, the less likely it seems that things will return to "normal".
  by Pensyfan19
In somewhat promising news, the attempt to deprive Caltrain from needed funding may be considered illegal, and a San Francisco supervisor will attempt to get more funding this week.

https://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2 ... g-proposal
A proposed change to a ballot initiative meant to generate tax support for Caltrain could mean the San Francisco Bay commuter railroad receives little or no revenue from the tax, according to a group of legislators. The San Francisco Chronicle reports officials in San Francisco and Santa Clara have said, as a condition of their support for the ballot measure, the funds from the proposed one-eighth-cent tax would go to transit agencies in each count, which could pass as much or as little along to Caltrain as they wish. In a statement issued Sunday, U.S. Reps. Jackie Speer (D-San Mateo) and Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), along with three state legislators and two local officials, says that would violate the law: “The statute requires that if the ballot measure passes, the money goes to Caltrain.” Some San Francisco supervisors — who are unhappy about San Mateo County’s control of the board governing Caltrain — previously refused to support the ballot measure, which would block it from going to voters [see “Digest: Caltrain could face shutdown …,” July 15, 2020], but another San Francisco supervisor will try to change that this week [see “Digest: San Francisco supervisor will try to revive Caltrain ballot measure,” July 17, 2020]. Caltrain has contended it could have to shut down without the funds from the tax.
In other better news, a vaccine developed by Oxford University in Britain has shown very promising results and improves the immunity of the participants to the virus.
  by BandA
We're five months into pandemic restrictions; What has Caltrain done to cut their expenses? Have they spent capital money on operations? Also it's interesting that before the pandemic they apparently had 70% farebox recovery.
  by lensovet
Per their website:
Caltrain’s current weekday schedule includes 70 Local and Limited trains, with two roundtrip trains to/from Gilroy. Baby Bullet trains remain suspended. Weekend service remains unchanged
Sounds like pre-COVID, the schedule had 92 trains on weekdays; see e.g. https://web.archive.org/web/20200104222 ... table.html. Gilroy had 3 roundtrip trains instead of 2. There were 22 bullets, but the schedule has been adjusted — they didn't just keep the old schedule with the bullets removed (as an example, bullet 305 NB is replaced with a limited stop 205).

I would highly doubt that it's legal for them to spend any capital money on operations, at least given the capital projects currently underway (Hillsdale grade separation, electrification).

I also love the grandstanding by SF politicians about the sales tax being regressive. Because taking away transit options from people who might not even have a car to get around is not regressive, right?
  by Pensyfan19
Ballot delayed... :(

https://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2 ... ficit-woes
Caltrain’s effort to secure a dedicated funding stream through a ballot measure took another hit Wednesday when Santa Clara County supervisors deferred action on the sales tax proposal until Aug. 6 — the last day to approve initiatives for this November’s election — according to a report by the San Jose Spotlight. Caltrain, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic because of its heavy reliance on ticket revenue, says it could be forced to shut down without the money from the one-eighth cent tax. But the measure has been caught up in a political struggle between the three counties served by Caltrain, with San Francisco and Santa Clara counties seeking changes to a structure that has the commuter railroad run by San Mateo County’s transit agency
  by west point
Quit a game of chicken going on. Can understand SantaClara county but San Francisco ? It hardly originates any passengers south for commuting. Yes it does have returning passengers at 5th and town.
  by STrRedWolf
Strangely enough, the Well, There's Your Problem podcast just covered this plus a bit of the history and problems in California. Namely, California's government systems are *!)@#( complicated and there's too many factors to consider.
  by lensovet
west point wrote: Thu Jul 23, 2020 8:06 pm Quit a game of chicken going on. Can understand SantaClara county but San Francisco ? It hardly originates any passengers south for commuting. Yes it does have returning passengers at 5th and town.
Not sure I follow…?
  by Pensyfan19
Somewhat encouraging news. Shows they have a good amount of support for service restoration.

https://www.progressiverailroading.com/ ... mic--61162
More than half of Caltrain riders polled, or 55 percent, indicated they plan to ride the commuter-rail system the same amount of times or more after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, according to the railroad’s recent rider survey.

A third of the respondents expect to ride Caltrain less after the pandemic, and 1 percent indicated they won’t return to the system, agency officials said in a press release.

A survey breakdown of passengers' income levels showed that riders who earn under $50,000 a year are the most likely to return to Caltrain.

A separate survey also indicated that 92 percent of employees at companies that participate in Caltrain’s Go Pass program are currently telecommuting to work, compared with 13 percent prior to the pandemic. The Go Pass program allows companies, residential complexes or educational institutions to purchase annual unlimited-rider passes for their employees, residents or students.