This is for those of you who travel on Caltrain, a commuter rail line that runs between San Francisco to San Jose in California. With the fall sports season well underway, many are taking it as an option to attend games and special events. All others can pass this post by.
1) Clipper Card Cheaper Then Buying A Ticket
Caltrain, unlink BART, gives those who use Clipper a break in the fare. According to the Caltrain fare chart a one-way paper ticket is $3.25 versus $2.75 using Clipper. The discount gets better if you are going further to San Jose. From San Francisco (Zone 1) to Santa Clara (Zone 4) the ticket will cost $9.25 versus $8.75. A day pass, which is valid all day, is $18.50 while the round trip Clipper is $17.50.
2) Tag On, Tag Off!
This is the most important rule using the Clipper card on Caltrain. You must tag your card at the Clipper card terminal before boarding the train and again when you get off. If you forget to tag, the conductor or fare inspector can issue you a ticket for fare evasion and toss you off the train at the next stop. Forgetting to tag off at your destination will cost you $12.75! That is the maximum one-way fare. When you tag off it automatically calculates the correct fare. But if you forget to do this by midnight, you get the maximum fare. Avoid this because as it can deplete your card’s cash value quickly! Make sure you have at least $1.25 in cash on your card or it will not allow you to tag at all!
3) Do Not Use Autoload
Clipper offers the autoload feature in theory to make it easier to load cash and passes. However it is beset with many problems and can take days to actually load. The best way to load a pass or cash is use a Clipper machine at the San Francisco or San Jose stations or any Walgreens store. Usually the photo area in most Walgreens is where they process the Clipper card. Simply tell them what you want to add to the card (pass or cash) and pay for it. Then it is loaded onto the card and ready to go (unless the pass does not become active till the first day of the month).
Some Caltrain stations have parking. The daily parking rate is $5.00. Take note of your parking space and pay for it at the ticket machine. Just select daily parking, type in your space number, and pay by cash/credit/debit card. You do not have to put the receipt on the dashboard of your car. If you decide not to pay, expect a ticket on your windshield. There is a monthly parking permit available to monthly pass and 8 ride ticket holders. Note that at the Millbrae station the Caltrain and BART parking are separate areas. Do not confuse the two!
5) Monthly Pass Perks
A monthly pass allows you to travel in the zones purchased Monday-Friday. But on weekends and holidays, you can travel all zones for no extra cost. So if you only go between Burlingame and San Francisco on the weekdays, you can take a trip down to San Jose for no extra cost. Nice.
7) Zone Upgrade
If you have a monthly pass or 8 ride ticket, to travel outside of the zones purchased you will need a zone upgrade ticket. This does not apply on weekends to monthly pass holders but applies at all times to 8 ride ticket holders. It costs $2.00 for each zone beyond your ticket zones. A good deal and lot cheaper then buying a ticket. See my write-up on this here.
8) Stanford Games
There are no Clipper or Caltrain ticket machines at the Stanford stop (only used for games and other events). If using Clipper, get on and off at the Palo Alto station. Or use a day pass (which does cost more) and get off at Stanford stop.
9) 49ers Games
Take Caltrain to Mountain View and then VTA light rail to Levi’s Stadium. You can purchase a combined Caltrain/VTA day pass at Caltrain ticket machines. However it is more expensive than using Clipper. As of November 2015, the one way VTA fare is $2.00 or $4.00 round trip from Levi’s Stadium. San Francisco (Zone 1) To Mountain View (Zone 3) is $14.50 round trip for total of $18.50. The special day pass is $20.50. Important note: If you have a two-zone Caltrain monthly pass, you receive a free transfer on VTA.
Take Caltrain to Fourth and King station (the end of the line for northbound trains) and simply walk two blocks to the ballpark. It is the fastest way to get to the ballpark on the Peninsula.
11) Important Reminders
* Yes you can eat and drink on the train. Alcohol consumption is allowed up to 9pm.
* There are bathrooms on the trains, just ask a conductor where they are. The newer bombardier trains have one in every car.
*If going to a game in San Francisco, Mountain View, or San Jose, be advised you must toss out your open beer cans or bottles into the trash. If you exit the track platform into the main area, you can be cited for violating the open container law. It is also goes without saying that if you arrive highly intoxicated the police will have a chat with you.
*If you loaded a monthly pass at a Clipper terminal or at Walgreens, you do not need to tag to confirm or activate it. It is already loaded on the card. Only those who use autoload have to tag to download and confirm the pass on the card.
*Do not get smart with the conductors! If you get into their face because you have no ticket or some other issue, you will be escorted off the train, arrested and charged with assault. It is not worth it.
For Further Information
Santa Clara County Transportation Authority (VTA)
Akit’s Complaint Blog:Perhaps the best blog out there about the various problems using Clipper and other transportation issues.