Caltrain fare hike approved

Staff had originally proposed either a 25-cent increase in Caltrain's base fare by itself, or a 25-cent base fare increase plus a 25-cent increase in additional zone fares, according to Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn.

It was the first proposal, the base fare increase by itself, that was approved by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board today.

The agency's last fare hike, of 25 cents per zone, took effect in April 2007.

Dunn said the fare increase approved today is expected to generate more than $943,000 between January and July, and an estimated $1,887,000 during the next full fiscal year.

The hike is necessary because of the increase in fuel costs, Dunn said.

Dunn said Caltrain uses 4.45 million gallons of diesel fuel each year, and each 10-cent increase in fuel prices costs the agency $480,000 annually.

Caltrain is operating under an ongoing structural deficit and needs to raise additional revenue to ensure that reserves are full enough to handle more changes in fuel pricing, Dunn added.

While agreeing that fare hikes are necessary, Caltrain executive director Mike Scanlon said the decision to adopt base fare hike alone was made in an effort to acknowledge difficult economic times.

"I guess it's sort of the world we're living in right now," Scanlon said after the board meeting. "The economy is just out of control. We've got to do whatever we can to help people. They are coming to us at a time when they can't afford to drive their automobile."

Caltrain hosted three community meetings in August seeking comment on the proposed fare hikes, and established an e-mail address and phone line to receive further comment.

A total of 27 comments were received before the Sept. 4 public hearing held after the community meetings, with an additional 10 comments received following the hearing. Of the comments, six favored the fare increase, 16 opposed it, and nine favored a moderate increase.

Caltrain offers train service on the Peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose, and commuter service to Gilroy.

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