[Update 12 Dec 2015:Updated to reflect that Zone Upgrade also applies to day passes and single ride tickets.]
[Update 2 Sep 2013: I have deleted reference to the 8-Ride Ticket as the zone upgrade only applies to holders of monthly pass. Otherwise all the other information remains the same.]
While sitting on the train the other day, a conductor explained to a confused passenger how the zone upgrade works. Apparently the person had purchased the wrong zones. Fortunately since the train was stopped and waiting for an express to pass, the passenger had time to run out and purchase the correct upgrade. It made me realize how easy to be confused in using the upgrade.
The Caltrain Zone Upgrade
The Zone Upgrade is for passengers traveling on a monthly pass, day pass or single ride ticket. It allows you to travel beyond the zone(s) purchased. The cost per zone is $2.00. You cannot purchase a Zone Upgrade with Clipper e-cash.
Buying a Zone Upgrade
Purchase the upgrade at Caltrain ticket machines. Select Zone Upgrade from the main menu. The extra zone(s) are the ones not covered by your monthly pass,day pass or single ride ticket. For instance, you have a Zone 1 pass for San Francisco-San Bruno and want to go to Redwood City in Zone 2. That is a one Zone Upgrade so the cost is $2.00. A trip to Menlo Park in Zone 3 is a two zone upgrade ($4.00) and a trip to San Jose in Zone 4 is three zones ($6.00).
Why bother with a Zone Upgrade? It saves money. Two one way tickets to San Jose and San Francisco costs $17.50 compared to $12.00 using the zone upgrade.
Remember it is the zone(s) outside your pass or ticket that count for the upgrade. Show both your upgrade and Clipper card or ticket to the conductor when asked.
Zone Upgrades are good for 4 hours in one direction. This allows you to get off along the way and then get back on to continue your trip. Remember to allow enough time to complete the trip. If your ticket expires while aboard the train, you can be cited for fare evasion.
For monthly pass holders, you do not need to purchase zone upgrades on weekends and holidays. One of the perks is that you can travel through all zones on those days using the monthly pass.
To Sum Up:
*Zone upgrades are for traveling beyond the zone(s) on your pass. You can only use them with monthly pass, day pass, or single ride tickets.
*Zone upgrades are cheaper than a one way fare and can only be purchased at Caltrain ticket machines.
*Zone upgrades are good for four hours in one direction.
*Zone upgrade validity period does not supersede the original ticket.