Caltrain looks to cut costs, Gilroy station will stay open

Gilroy
– Caltrain service to Gilroy isn’t in any immediate danger, but
commuters who take the train to San Jose and San Francisco will
soon pay more for the ride.
Gilroy – Caltrain service to Gilroy isn’t in any immediate danger, but commuters who take the train to San Jose and San Francisco will soon pay more for the ride.

Next month, the Caltrain board of directors will approve a fare increase that will boost the daily Gilroy to San Jose commute from $8.50 to $10. Getting to San Francisco and back will cost $19, up from $16.

“The fare increases are something [we] have to do,” Don Gage said Tuesday. Gage, a Santa Clara County Supervisor, is also on the Caltrain board. “Our Caltrain service has gone bad. We have half the ridership. The rest of the system is basically carrying us and there’s a danger of us losing the service altogether.”

Hal Peller, of Hollister, said the increase won’t stop him from taking the train to Sunnyvale every day.

“What can you do,” he said. “It still beats driving.”

Caltrain is funded by San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Santa Clara County pays extra to underwrite the Gilroy trips. The last fare increase was in 2002.

Ridership between Gilroy and San Jose has been dropping precipitously for several years, according to Caltrain officials. Daily ridership fell from 988 in February 2003 to 667 in February 2004. The four daily trains to Gilroy cost Caltrain $1.3 million annually. Fare revenue is about $985,000 annually.

In December, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority signed a $47 million deal with Union Pacific Railroad that gives Caltrain right-of-way to increase service to Gilroy.

Caltrain spokeswoman Jayme Kunz said the route is safe for now.

“That’s pretty much a non-starter,” she said. “It sounds as though the issue of eliminating service to Gilroy is off the board.”

The system-wide 17.5 percent fare increase will kick in July 1 and earn Caltrain about $3.15 million in the next fiscal year. The agency is exploring other cuts to its service to recoup a projected $13.6 million deficit in its $75 million budget.

A public meeting is scheduled for 6pm, Wednesday, March 23 at Santa Clara City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave.

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