Expanded Caltrain service a step closer to reality

Caltrain continued taking steps to expand its service at its recent board meeting, hoping to double the number of trains running during peak hours over the next 20 years.

Paired with electrification, which is ongoing, the Caltrain Service Vision as the plan is known, was approved by the train’s board earlier this month. The service plan aligns with an expected boost in ridership, from 65,000 passengers per day now to at least 180,000 per day by 2040.

Today, Caltrain operates five trains per hour in each direction during the morning and evening commutes. Under the adopted plan, the operator would run eight trains per hour in each direction – approximately every 7.5 minutes, in a mix of express – Baby Bullet – and local trains. An expansion of service during the rest of the weekday and on weekends, including continued service to Gilroy throughout the day and weekend was also included.

The Caltrain plan also envisions the proposed move of the San Francisco terminus from the existing 4th and King Station approximately a mile northwest to the Salesforce Transit Center.

Caltrain’s service vision is part of its larger Business Plan process, and would allow for connections to rail service across the Dumbarton Bridge, as has been rumored for several years, and anticipates the ongoing upgrades happening at and around San Jose’s Diridon Station.

More service, more costs

While the service vision would significantly increase operating costs for the railroad, much of which would be recouped by increased ridership, it would also require major infrastructure investments, including overtake areas, more grade separations to reduce road-rail crossings, and new signal systems, among other things.

This funding gap is part of why Caltrain officials are continuing to look for a dedicated funding source, which the railroad currently lacks. The vast majority of operating funds for Caltrain come from rider fares, unlike many other transit systems that rely mostly on government support.

According to Caltrain, the new service vision could eliminate up to 825,000 car trips per day, which would go a long way to helping reduce car emissions, California’s highest cause of greenhouse gases.

For more information on the Caltrain plan, click here.