as a rail service offering faster trips and more weekday
frequency has led to big increases in ridership, which are helping
the commuter rail line close a budget gap that had threatened its
San Jose – Caltrain’s “reinvention” as a rail service offering faster trips and more weekday frequency has led to big increases in ridership, which are helping the commuter rail line close a budget gap that had threatened its survival.
Since Caltrain introduced a new streamlined schedule Aug. 1, average weekday ridership is up about 9.4 percent compared to the same months last year, according to Chief Operating Officer Chuck Harvey.
Revenue, meanwhile, is up 27.6 percent over last year’s figure, despite a 17.5 percent fare increase July 1 which had been expected to cost some ridership.
The increases in both ridership and revenue are even more dramatic when compared to levels before Caltrain introduced its Baby Bullet service in June 2004 with 10 of the popular express trains.
Average weekday ridership has gone from 26,603 pre-Baby Bullet to 34,430 as of September of this year, and revenue is up 50 percent, Harvey said.
In those two years, Caltrain’s 76-train weekday schedule has grown to 96, effective Aug. 1; 22 of those trains are Baby Bullets. Caltrain managed to increase service and offer faster trips at more stations by completely revamping the way local service is provided.
A looming $13.6-million budget deficit for the 2006 fiscal year, which began July 1, forced Caltrain’s board to take drastic steps for the railroad to survive.
More than 200 stops were eliminated from the schedule, service to the Paul Avenue Station (San Francisco) was suspended and weekday service was eliminated at the Broadway (Burlingame) and Atherton stations.
“We had to make some difficult and controversial decisions knowing that they might cost us some riders,” said Caltrain board chair Mike Nevin. “But overall the strategy which was used to ‘reinvent’ Caltrain has been vindicated by overall ridership growth. Clearly, passengers want the faster travel times that Caltrain now offers.”
Higher gas prices may have lured some drivers onto Caltrain but the ridership gains haven’t always matched gas price spikes.