If we don’t want to sit in gridlock on the Peninsula in the coming years, and we don’t want to build new freeways, then we must increase the capacity of Caltrain to carry more passengers.
Caltrain is in a situation now where increases in diesel fuel prices and other costs related to labor, such as health insurance premiums, are outpacing even the healthy growth in ridership. The year is quickly approaching when Caltrain, filled to capacity, will be unable to accommodate additional riders during peak hours. In the near future, Caltrain may be forced to raise fares even more, and cut service. There is a very real danger of triggering a downward spiral of decreasing service, decreasing ridership, and higher fares.
Electrification is a proven method worldwide of cutting operating costs, and Caltrain staff have prepared analyses of how many more extra seats they can offer at reduced operating cost if Caltrain is electrified, in their Project 2025 presentation.
Caltrain has a lot of aging equipment that will need to be replaced soon. Since Caltrain has to replace a lot of equipment in any case, now is the time to spend some extra money to do it right and allow Caltrain to grow and sustain service over the next few decades. Electrification of Caltrain will revolutionize transit on the Peninsula, attract tens of thousands of new riders, and set an example in the U.S. of what rail transit can be.