Fuel costs reach Caltrain riders 

Commuters who ditched their cars in favor of Caltrain to avoid skyrocketing gas prices will likely see their commuting bills jump soon — because of those skyrocketing gas prices.

Caltrain, which says its fuel costs have nearly doubled in the last 16 months, has proposed two different types of 25-cent fare hikes that would cause ticket prices to increase between 5 percent and 15 percent, depending on trip length and pass type.

For regular riders, the fare hike would be significant. Monthly passes, one-way rides and daily rides would jump by either a flat rate of 25 cents or an additional quarter per zone crossed, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said. That equates to an average increase of a 5.3 percent or 12.8 percent, depending on which proposal is chosen, she said.

Caltrain divides its San Francisco-to-Gilroy service area into six zones — Zone 1, for instance, covers San Francisco to San Bruno. Ticket prices are based upon the number of zones traveled.

A 12.8 percent increase would add $7.65 to $37.30 per month to the bills of commuters. Riders currently pay $59.75 to $291.50 for discounted monthly passes, depending on trip length.

For casual riders, on the other hand, the current one-way ticket across two zones costs $4. Under the flat 25-cent increase, that fare would jump to $4.25. Under the per-zone increase, it would jump 25 cents per zone to $4.50.

The fare increase would take effect Jan. 1. It could be approved by the Caltrain Board of Directors as soon as Sept. 4.

The 25-cent base-fare increase would generate an extra $943,500 for Caltrain next year, while the per-zone fare hike would create an additional $2 million.

The agency currently receives about 40 percent of its money from passenger fares and does not have a dedicated source of funding, Dunn said. As a result, it continues to face financial difficulties even with a record average of nearly 38,000 weekday riders, she said.

Caltrain will also change its 10-ride pass to an eight-ride format for administrative reasons; the adjustment will have no effect on costs, Dunn said.

Margaret Okuzumi, executive director of the BayRail Alliance, said riders were willing to absorb the last fare increase — a 25-cent jump in April 2007 — but that this latest move would discourage ridership.

“Now, my feeling is, everybody’s feeling really pinched now economically, and of course gas prices aren’t any better,” Okuzumi said. “Some people will choose to drive instead, perhaps.”

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

All aboard

Caltrain’s proposed fare increases

5.3%: Increase under 25-cent base-fare proposal

12.8%: Increase under 25-cent-per-zone proposal

$7.65 to $37.30: Increase in cost of monthly pass under 25-cent-per-zone proposal

$943,500: Revenue increase under 25-cent base fare proposal

$2 million: Revenue increase under 25-cent-per-zone proposal

37,849: Average weekday riders (record)

85%: Increase in Caltrain fuel costs since April 2007

Source: Caltrain

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