Riding The Rails With Caltrain

Correction (13 Sept 2012):
I noted yesterday that the increased passenger levels meant no fare hikes. I forgot about the proposed “Changes To Condified Tariff” that will soon be decided upon by Caltrain. According to press release, Caltrain plans no fare increases for Clipper users but on cash passengers. They will pay 25 cents more per zone. If you use Clipper from San Francisco to San Jose, the one way fare is $8.75 or $17.50 roundtrip. Cash users will pay $9.75 or $19.50 roundtrip. They plan to eliminate 8-Ride Tickets and increase Go Pass Cost.

Mark’s view:
Eliminating the 8-Ride ticket is a good idea. It simply has been a major headache for most users. The old system simply required a machine stamp before boarding the train. The reason for this ticket was for those people who travel infrequently during a month but not enough to buy a full monthly pass. What Caltrain ought to do is offer something that BART does, the High Value Ticket that offers a discount. And consider free parking on weekends like many BART stations do as well.

*San Bruno (temporary station)-The droning gas fired lights has been replaced by the steady glow of parking lamps. This is good news for the residents of the area. Now the parking lot is clearly illuminated. And the out of service info screen on the northbound side has been fixed. Sadly one of the Clipper readers on that side is still out of order (at least two months now).

*The Clipper machines at Fourth & King are fully operational. You can add cash or passes to your Clipper card at these machines. No really, you can! There was a long line the other day at Walgreens across from the station. While getting my favorite trail mix bars, one guy in line (the line went down that aisle) said there were Clipper machines at the station but not operating. I pointed out that there were now online and could add passes to a Clipper card. He and a friend left while others, to my surprise, stayed right there and one person saying “I don’t think you can do that….” Well folks, you can.


*You see funny things when sitting around  Fourth & King station while waiting to board a train. If you frequent it enough you recognize the street people who constantly check the garbage for aluminum cans or anything else they might need. Some drift through asking passengers for spare change. Others just sit a while during the day. There are notable ones that mutter to themselves and saying things that only they can understand. Then again perhaps some of the ordinary people do things that seem odd. Take one gal I saw recently. Her carbonated water was too agitated when she opened it. Now most people would find some sensible way of dealing with it. Hers was to spill it out on the floor just behind one of the benches. Made for a nice puddle that the janitorial staff had to clean up later.

*Some months ago there was a directive issued that during non-commute hours and weekend trains that tickets be checked prior to boarding in San Francisco/San Jose. A lot of conductors did not like this and voiced their displeasure. Now it looks like either the rule has eased up or some conductors are just not doing it. Perhaps the change in management (Amtrak lost its long standing contract with Caltrain) has made the conductors less afraid to defy. However do not think they are not checking aboard the trains. One diligent conductor on southbound 284 checks nearly every time usually when the train pulls over in Bayshore to wait for the express to pass. And the policy of ticketing without exceptions appears to be in full force.

*Northbound train 159 is rarely on time and nearly always 3-4 minutes off but sometimes longer. It is a late afternoon train (it departs San Jose at 3:05 P.M.) and is supposed to arrive in San Francisco at 4:38 P.M. It is rare to see it pull in early (it does happen). One time it was ten minutes late into San Bruno and of course no explanation.

*News reports indicate passenger levels have risen on Caltrain. There are two possible factors (excluding weekends which draw different numbers from the weekday). One is that South of Market (SOMA or to us old timers south of the slot) has a lot more people working in the area than before. Second is that people are switching their mode of transportation to Caltrain from BART. BART is more expensive from San Bruno and Millbrae to San Francisco than Caltrain. The drawback is that from Fourth & King you have to take SF MUNI to downtown.  The good news is that Caltrain is not planning any fare hikes just now. The bad news is that they still have major financial problems. Perhaps all that money for the high speed rail to nowhere could be shunted over to Caltrain.

*There is a new Subway outlet near the San Francisco station. Head east on Townsend and just past the Golden Arches.

*Signs of doom when aboard a Caltrain: The train scheduled to leave later departs before your train.