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Caltrain is a Californiamarker commuter rail line on the San Francisco Peninsula and the Santa Clara Valley in the United Statesmarker. It is currently operated under contract by Amtrak and funded jointly by the City and County of San Franciscomarker, San Mateo County Transit District, and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority through the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board. The northern terminus of the rail line is in San Franciscomarker, at 4th and King streets; its southern terminus is in Gilroymarker. Trains operate out of San Francisco and San Jose on an approximately half-hourly basis every weekday, with more-frequent service provided during commute hours and for special events (such as sporting events) and less-frequent service at night and on weekends and holidays. Service between San Jose and Gilroy is limited to three daily commute-hour round trips. Average weekday ridership in February 2008 was 36,993 persons.

, Caltrain has 29 regular stops, one football-only stop (Stanford Stadiummarker), and two weekend-only stops (Broadway and Atherton). Caltrain operates a mix of 90 local, limited, and express weekday trains, with 32 and 28 hourly local trains on Saturdays and Sundays, respectively.


See Peninsula Commute for more information on commuter rail service before Caltrain.

Southern Pacific service

The original Peninsula railroad corridor between San Francisco and San Jose was constructed in 1863 by the San Francisco and San Jose Rail Road, which was purchased by Southern Pacific in 1870.

Under Southern Pacific's ownership, the line was double tracked in 1904 and had experienced record ridership during World War II. After the war, the ridership slowly declined with the rise of automobile use. In 1977, SP filed a petition with the state Public Utilities Commission to discontinue the commuter operation due to the ongoing operating losses.

To preserve the commuter service, Caltrans in 1980 contracted SP and began to subsidize the operation. During the Caltrans' administration, Caltrans purchased new locomotives and rolling stock which replaced the SP equipment in 1985, upgraded stations, introduced shuttle buses to nearby employers, and rebranded the operation as CalTrain.

Joint Powers Board

The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB) was formed in 1987 to manage the line. Subsequently San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties commissioned Earth Metrics, Inc., to prepare an Environmental Impact Report to address right-of-way acquisition and expansion of operations. With state and local funding, the PCJPB purchased the railroad right of way between San Francisco and San Jose from SP in 1991. In the following year, PCJPB took over the full responsibility for Caltrain operations and selected Amtrak as the contract operator. Also, PCJPB extended the Caltrain service from San Josemarker to Gilroymarker, with a direct connection to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Light Rail at Tamien Stationmarker in San Jose.

In July 1995, Caltrain became accessible to passengers in wheelchairs. Five months later, Caltrain increased the bicycle limit to 24 per train, making the service attractive to commuters in bicycle-friendly cities such as San Franciscomarker and Palo Altomarker.

In July 1997 the current logo was adopted, and the official name became Caltrain.

In 1998, the San Francisco Municipal Railway extended the N Judah Muni Metro line from Market Street to the San Francisco Caltrain Station at 4th and King streets, providing a direct Caltrain-Muni Metro connection for the first time. A year later, VTA extended its Light Rail from north Santa Clara to the Caltrain station in Mountain View.

In June 2003, a passenger connection for the Bay Area Rapid Transit and Caltrain systems was opened at Millbraemarker station just south of the San Francisco International Airportmarker.

In 2008, Caltrain reached an all-time high of 98 trains each day.

Baby Bullet Express Service

In June 2004, Caltrain finished its two-year CTX (Caltrain Express) project to implement a new express service called the Baby Bullet. The project entailed the construction of new bypass tracks in Brisbane and Sunnyvale as well as a new centralized traffic control system. The Baby Bullet trains reduced travel time by stopping only at five stations between San Francisco and the San Jose Diridon Stationmarker. The faster express trains could overtake slower local trains at the two locations where bypass tracks were installed. As a result, the travel time between San Francisco and San Jose for the express service is 57 minutes, a savings of 33 minutes compared to the 1 hour and 30 minutes for the local service. While the top speed of the Baby Bullets is the same as the slower local trains, fewer stops allow the expresses to maintain their top speed of for a much longer duration, cutting travel time significantly. In addition, the CTX project included the purchase of new Bombardier BiLevel Coach trainsets along with MPI MP36PH-3C locomotives for the express service. The Baby Bullets have proved to be extremely popular with riders. However, as the service bypasses most stations, many riders experience longer commutes due to having to take one of the fewer non-bullet trains, some of which operate more slowly in order to allow the Baby Bullet trains to pass them.

Starting from May 2005, Caltrain implemented a series of fare increases and schedule changes in response to a projected budget shortfall. The frequency of the popular Baby Bullet express trains was increased in order to bring in additional revenues; two express trains were added in May and another ten were added in August. New Baby Bullet stops, also known as Pattern B stops, were also introduced. Another increase of US$0.25 in basic fare was implemented in January 2006. All these efforts helped stabilize Caltrain's budget and increase the daily ridership from fewer than 27,000 to over 34,000.

Maintenance and operations facility

The Centralized Equipment Maintenance and Operations Facility is a new train maintenance yard and facility located to the north of San Jose Diridonmarker station in San Josemarker. The maintenance station began construction in 2004 and opened on September 29, 2007. The facility consolidates much of Caltrain's maintenance and operations into one location.

Major Plans

Downtown San Francisco extension

An additional tunnel has been proposed to extend Caltrain from the current northern terminus in San Francisco at 4th and King to a rebuilt Transbay Terminalmarker, where it would be much closer to the job centermarker of San Francisco and connect directly with BART, Muni, Transbay AC Transit buses, and long-distance buses. As of August 2006, the Caltrain extension portion of the Transbay Terminal project is scheduled to begin construction in 2012 and open in 2018. The extension would also serve the California High-Speed Rail system.

Dumbarton Rail

Caltrain has been chosen to provide commuter rail service on a to-be-rebuilt Dumbarton rail corridor across the San Francisco Baymarker between the Peninsula and Alameda Countymarker in the East Bay. This project would add four stations to the Caltrain system: Union Citymarker, Fremont-Centervillemarker, Newarkmarker, and Menlo Parkmarker/East Palo Altomarker. The two obsolete swing bridges along the corridor would be replaced. Dumbarton Rail is scheduled to start construction in 2009 after a 30-month environmental review, and begin service in 2012. Its estimated cost has doubled to US$ 600M since 2004. SamTrans, one of Caltrain's member agencies, already owns the right-of-way for the Dumbarton Rail Bridge. The bridge has not been used since 1982, when it was still owned by SP, and about 33% of the bridge collapsed due to an arson fire in 1998. This project is currently facing financial difficulties with many asking if it is really needed.

South of Gilroy extension

Caltrain also has plans for south of Gilroy extension. This project would extend Caltrain service into Monterey Countymarker, just southwest of Santa Clara Countymarker. The planned terminus is Salinasmarker with intermediate stops at Pajaromarker (Watsonville Junction) and Castrovillemarker. Depending on state and federal funding availability and a possible local sales tax measure, this service could start in 2010. This project is managed by Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC). TAMC published the Final Environment Impact Report for this project in 2006. This would complement another plan to re-establish rail service last provided by Southern Pacific Railroad's Del Monte Express which run from Montereymarker.

Service to Hollistermarker along a spur separate from the Monterey County extension has also been proposed.

Weekend service, especially during the summer, could also be provided to Santa Cruz via Watsonville.


The proposed Caltrain electrification project would convert the Caltrain mainline between San Franciscomarker and San Josemarker from the current diesel-electric locomotive power source to a fully electric rolling stock. Electrification would improve service times via faster acceleration, enable more fine-grained scheduling, and reduce pollution and noise. Electrification also allows future expansion to downtown San Francisco.

Although the project has an estimated total cost of $600–865 million, some of these costs can be offset by savings of $1–2 million a year in fuel and other saved costs; the amount saved depends on the price of diesel. Electrified vehicles require less maintenance, but electrification will increase required track maintenance by approximately the same dollar amount, at least initially. Caltrain plans to complete electrification by 2014.

The electrification project between San Francisco and San Jose is the first of two project phases,with the second phase between Tamien and Gilroy. The capital cost, excluding electric rolling stock, for the first phase is estimated at $471 million (2006 dollars). Options for the new electric rolling stock include electric locomotives with new or overhauled passenger cars, or electric multiple units. Caltrain plans to retain the newer diesel-electric rolling stocks for Dumbarton and south of Tamien service.

Wireless internet access

In 2006, Caltrain announced that wireless internet access (using WiMAX) would be available to passengers, at no additional charge, by the end of 2007. Caltrain invested more than $1 Million in researching and testing WiFi in 2006. The Caltrain Board of Directors voted at their August 30, 2007 meeting to keep the project from proceeding by rejecting both bids to provide the service, citing both bids not meeting the expectation of Caltrain. Caltrain still hopes to offer the service eventually as part of a more comprehensive communication package.

California High-Speed Rail

The entire length of the Caltrain right-of-way from Gilroy to San Franciscomarker, is part of the planned route of the California High-Speed Rail line. Trains will reach speeds of up to 125 mph between San Jose and San Francisco. The construction of the system will also eliminate all grade crossings on the peninsula and the Silicon Valley along the right-of-way.


Weekend-only stations

Weekday scheduled trains were suspended at these stations on August 2005 as a cost-saving measure:

Event-only station

Closed stations

  • 4.1 mi (7 km) - Paul Avenuemarker, San Francisco - possibly to be replaced by Oakdale, about one mile (1.6 km) to the north in 2012 or 2013.
  • 20.0 mi (32 km) - Bay Meadowsmarker, San Mateo - closed on December 20, 2005; consolidated with Hillsdalemarker station which was less than half mile (800 m) away. The Hillsdale station was also moved a few hundred feet (100 m) north so that an exit ramp leads right into the Bay Meadows parking lot as part of a renovation of the station for Baby Bullet service.
  • 34.9 mi (56 km) - Castromarker, Mountain View (at Castro City on Rengstorff Avenue) - closed in 1998; replaced with the new San Antonio stop 0.8 miles (1.3 km) to the north in 1999

Hold-out rule

Stations where one set of tracks is served by a platform between the tracks (thus passengers must cross an active track to board) require a "hold-out" rule for safety. This rule mandates that only one train at a time may pass through the station regardless of whether or not that train intends to stop. The rule does not apply to Broadway and Atherton stations on weekdays, as both serve trains only on weekends.

  • South San Francisco
  • Broadway
  • Atherton
  • Santa Clara
  • College Park

Ticketing and ridership

Caltrain Ridership by year

Average Weekday, Survey done every February.
1997 26,043
1998 27,967
1999 27,591
2000 31,291
2001 35,609
2002 30,961
2003 27,191
2004 25,550
2005 28,393
2006 32,031
2007 33,841
2008 36,993

Ticketing of Caltrain service is provided based upon the number of zones traveled (see above). Caltrain uses a proof-of-payment system; tickets must be purchased before boarding, and may be checked at various times during travel. Discounts are available for 8-ride tickets and monthly passes. Seniors, children and the disabled ride for roughly half price (varies depending on the ticket). One-way fares are as follows (as of 2009-01-04):

  • Within one zone: $2.50
  • Between two zones: $4.25
  • Between three zones: $6.00
  • Between four zones: $7.75
  • Between five zones: $9.50
  • Between six zones: $11.25

Day-Pass or Round Trip is as follows

Within One Zone: $5.00Within Two Zones: $8.50Within Three Zones: $12.00Within Four Zones: $15.50Within Five Zones: $19.00Within Six Zones: $22.50

The zone-based approach to ticketing requires little infrastructure at the stations but can be disproportionately expensive for passengers only traveling a few stops and crossing a zone boundary. For example, to travel from Sunnyvale to Lawrence (2.0 miles / 3.2 km) requires a $4.25 ticket, while traveling from Millbrae to Redwood City (11.7 miles / 18.8 km) requires only a $2.50 ticket.

Though originally slated to be deployed in 2008, in August of 2009, CalTrain became the fifth public transit agency in the San Francisco bay area to implement Translink, the smart fare card that allows usually seamless transfers between participating agencies. Single rides, 8-ride tickets, and montly passes are all available using Translink, and conductors have begun to carry Translink card readers while checking tickets. The system is still in a "soft launch" phase, and officials recommend always having alternate forms of purchasing a ticket available.

Cost and budget

The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board purchased the right of way between San Francisco and San Jose for $212 million from Southern Pacific in 1991. The total operating budget for fiscal year 2006 was $73,524,000. The fare revenue was $30,186,000, making the farebox recovery ratio 41%.

Rolling stock


Caltrain uses (or has used) the following locomotives, which are powered by diesel engines:

Builder Model Locomotive Numbers Years of Service Notes
EMD F40PH-2 902, 903, 907, 910, 914 1985–Present Overhauled by Alstom in 1999.
EMD F40PH-2CAT 900, 901, 904–906, 908, 909, 911–913, 915–919 1985–Present, Originally F40PH-2s, overhauled by Alstom in 1999, separate HEP generators were added.
MPI F40PH-2C 920–922 1998–Present No. 920 is the Operation Lifesaver unit.
MPI (Boise) MP36PH-3C 923–928 2003–Present Primarily used for "Baby Bullet" service.
EMD GP9 500, 501;

Southern Pacific 3187

1980–1985 (Built in 1959)
Used for Work Train/Yard Switcher service. 500 and 501 were originally Southern Pacific 3833 and 3842. They were initially retired in 2005, but both have been reactivated and are in active service as of May 2008. Southern Pacific 3187 received Caltrain's prototype paint scheme in 1980 before the arrival of HEP equipment in 1985.
EMD MP15DC 503, 504 2003–Present (Built in 1974) Used for Work Train/Yard Switcher service, originally Southern Pacific 2690 and 2691.

Caltrain also leased a number of Amtrak F40PH's in 1998 and 1999 while Caltrain's F40PH-2's were being overhauled.

Locomotive names

  • 900 San Francisco
  • 901 San Jose
  • 902 San Mateo
  • 903 Santa Clara
  • 904 Palo Alto
  • 905 Sunnyvale
  • 906 Burlingame
  • 907 Mountain View
  • 908 Redwood City
  • 909 Menlo Park
  • 910 Millbrae
  • 911 San Carlos
  • 912 San Bruno
  • 913 Belmont
  • 914 Atherton
  • 915 South San Francisco
  • 916 California
  • 917 Gilroy
  • 918 County of San Mateo
  • 919 County of Santa Clara
  • 920 Morgan Hill (Operation Lifesaver)
  • 921 San Martin
  • 922 Tamien
  • 923
  • 924
  • 925 Jackie Speier
  • 926
  • 927
  • 928

Passenger cars

There are 93 bi-level gallery-type cars built by Nippon Sharyo in Caltrain's fleet, of which 66 are coaches and 27 are bike-accessible cab control cars. Caltrans purchased the first 63 gallery cars in 1985 when it began subsidizing the commuter rail service. The other 30 were purchased by Caltrain in 2000, and the older cars were rebuilt by Nippon Sharyo around the same time. Each gallery car has one set of exit doors on each side of the car.

Caltrain purchased 17 Bombardier BiLevel Coaches in 2002, of which 10 are coaches, 5 are cab-bike cars, and 2 are cab-wheelchair cars. Some of the Bombardier BiLevel Coaches were bought from the Sounder Commuter Rail. Since the Bombardier cab-bike cars can only carry one half the bikes of a Nippon Sharyo car, Caltrain typically runs two cab-bike cars on high-demand trains, with one at the tail and second ahead of the locomotive. Caltrain purchased additional eight cars in 2008 to meet short-term passenger growth and to increase spare ratio. These Bombardier cars are mostly used on Baby Bullet express trains, but occasionally they can be spotted working on limited-stop and local trains.

Caltrain formerly used "Boise Budd" single-level cars it bought from Virginia Railway Express as Special-Event trains. These were sold after becoming obsolete. They are now in service on the Grand Canyon Railway.

Intermodal connections

Regional rail

Caltrain has direct connections to three regional rail services; Bay Area Rapid Transit (with service to San Francisco, SFO, Oakland, Fremont, Richmond, Dublin, Concord, and Pittsburg.) at the Millbrae Intermodal Stationmarker, Amtrak's Capitol Corridor and Coast Starlight trains, as well as Altamont Commuter Express at San Josemarker's Diridon Stationmarker.

The future BART-to-San Jose extension would also introduce connecting BART service at Diridon station and Santa Clara stationmarker. Planned renovation for the Santa Clara station would also reintroduce the possibility of connecting service for Altamont Commuter Express and Amtrak.

Bus/Light rail

Caltrain is served by a number of local bus/rail systems. These system include the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni), San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). (Additionally, Golden Gate Transit of Marinmarker and Sonomamarker Counties is within 20 minutes' walking distance, or a short Muni ride via the N or T lines, from Caltrain's northern terminusmarker.)

In August 2005, as part of its Vasona light rail project, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority established its third transfer point with Caltrain at San Josemarker's central train station Diridon. In addition to many bus connections, VTA light rail service has two other Caltrain transfer points at San Jose's Tamienmarker and at Mountain Viewmarker. (Also, the Cottle light rail stopmarker in southern San Jose is a mile from Caltrain's Blossom Hill station.)

The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) has two light rail connections, the N Judah and T Third Street lines, at separate stops near the San Francisco 4th and King station. Muni intended to establish another light rail connection to the Bayshore station at Visitacion Valley in southern San Francisco for the T Third line, but this has been delayed indefinitely due to cost and design issues. The T Third opened on 2007-04-18 without the connection.


Caltrain also has connection to San Francisco International Airportmarker via BART at the Millbrae Intermodal Stationmarker and to San Jose International Airportmarker via VTA shuttle bus #10 at the Santa Clara Station.

Regional express bus

Caltrain is also served by AC Transit from Hayward at the Hillsdale station (Line M), Dumbarton Express from Union City at Palo Alto, Highway 17 Express bus from Santa Cruzmarker and Monterey-Salinas Transit from Montereymarker at San Jose, as well as San Benito County Express from Hollistermarker at Gilroy.

Bus shuttle

Caltrain sponsors many shuttle routes serving local employers on the Peninsula and the Silicon Valley. Shuttle connections via the Marguerite are available to Stanford Universitymarker at the Palo Alto and California Avenue stations and San José State Universitymarker at the San Jose Station.

Bicycle access

Caltrain was one of the first commuter rail services to add bicycle capacity to its trains. On the older gallery Nippon Sharyo fleet, every cab car is designed to carry 32 bicycles. On the other hand, most cab cars on the newer Bombardier fleet are designed to carry 16 bicycles. Consequently, bike capacity on trains can range from 16 to 64 bicycles (though 64 is not the norm as the second 32-bicycle gallery-type car is actually a spare taking the place of a regular trailer car in for service or repair. But since servicings are, of course, a regular occurrence it is a fairly common, though not predictable, sight). However, folding bicycles are not restricted and can be carried on any car when folded.

All bicycle cars are marked by a yellow bike decal on the outside. Onboard the bicycle cars, the cyclists are required to secure their bicycle to the rack using the bungee cord provided. Each rack can accommodate four bicycles. Because the bikes are stacked together against the racks, most riders place a destination tag on their bicycles to optimize placement and minimize shuffling.

The variation on bicycle capacity between trainsets has generated criticisms from the bicycling community, as cyclists are denied boarding when a train reaches its bicycle capacity. The Baby Bullet service, favored by many cyclists, is routinely operated with lower-bike capacity Bombardier trainsets and cyclists may be forced to wait for slower trains operated with higher-capacity gallery cars, or seek alternate transportation, such as driving.

Due to equipment rotation and maintenance concerns, Caltrain says it cannot dedicate higher-bike capacity trainsets on trains with high bike demand.

To provide an alternative to bringing bicycles onboard the trains, Caltrain has installed bicycle lockers at most stations, and constructed a new bicycle station at the San Francisco station. A bicycle station was open at the Palo Alto station from April 1999 to October 2004, and reopened in February 2007. In early 2008, the CalTrain sponsored Warm Planet bicycle station opened at the 4th and Townsend terminus.

On the Bombardier equipment, due to concerns of crowding the exit/entry doors, the northernmost door is designated the bike entry door, and the rear is the bike exit.

It has long been suggested that Caltrain could increase its bicycle capacity by removing some seats from bicycle cars. Initially Caltrain rejected this idea because some trains are operated at seated capacity and the seat removal would take space from other fare-paying passengers.But in early 2009, Caltrain reversed its position and announced that it would be expanding bicycle capacity by 8 spots by removing some seats in the bike cars, bringing bike capacity to 40 bikes on gallery cars and 24 bikes on Bombardier cars.. The actual expansion started several months later. As of July 2009, the transition has been mostly completed.


In 2008, there were 16 fatalities involving Caltrain, of which 13 were suicides. As of October, 2009, there have been 14 fatalities involving Caltrain, of which at least five were suicides.

See also


  1. Google Earth images.
  2. Transbay Transit Center
  3. Transbay project timeline
  4. Caltrain Monterey County Extension Final Environment Impact Report (EIR)
  5. Federal Transit Administration - Authorizations for Final Design and Construction
  6. Transit Planning for Santa Cruz County - Rail Projects
  7. Error - LexisNexis Publisher
  8. Caltrain Electrification Status Report, April 2006 Board Meeting (MS PowerPoint file)
  9. Caltrain WiFi FAQs
  10. Caltrain rejects two Wi-Fi bids, ending project
  11. Caltrain Broadway - Millbrae Shuttle
  12. SFCTA Caltrain Oakdale Station Study
  13. Caltrain Station At Hillsdale Closed for Construction – December 17 & 18
  14. [1]
  16. Caltrain Short Range Transit Plan Fiscal Years 2008-2017
  17. Caltrain-Commute Fleet
  18. (in recognition of securing $127 million for improvements that allowed the start of Baby Bullet service)
  21. Caltrain Bike
  22. Nov-Dec 1995 San Francisco Bicycle Coalition The Tubular Times - from Google Groups
  23. Caltrain to Increase Bike Capacity on Trains

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