Caltrain commuter train waiting at the San Jose station.

Caltrain Implements New Schedule Changes to Better Reflect Travelers Needs

Starting today, Caltrain will begin operating a new schedule that is designed to improve service for essential workers and transit-dependent riders, and is consistent with key service components of the Framework for Equity, Connectivity Recovery & Growth.

Caltrain’s service adjustments are aimed at increasing ridership and better serving those that continue to depend on the system between Gilroy, San Jose, and San Francisco. The new schedule provides riders with more frequent off-peak and weekend train service. Caltrain’s current ridership has skewed toward essential workers who are more likely to travel during off-peak times. The railroad has observed that demand for midday and weekend trips remains comparatively more resilient, and the schedule reflects that. It also balances travel time and coverage goals while maintaining capacity for social distancing.

The new schedule provides 68 trains during the weekday, with two trains per hour, per direction running throughout the day. Operating at least two trains per hour at most times of day allows the railroad to provide 30-minute frequency at higher demand stations and reasonably competitive travel times, while improving the connection from/to BART at Millbrae. Expanding midday service to two trains per hour, and increasing weekend service frequency to hourly trips is a significant improvement to off-peak service and responds to the travel needs of low-income riders and essential workers who tend to rely on the system during these times.

Weekend ridership now makes up 17% of total ridership — three times greater than pre-COVID-19. For this reason, Caltrain will now provide hourly Local service on weekends instead of the current 90-minute frequency to better serve ridership demand and promote social distancing.

Under this new plan, weekend Baby Bullet trains are discontinued and train service will be extended to the Tamien station, eliminating the weekend and holiday Tamien-San Jose Diridon Shuttle. The weekend changes also include a separate schedule for Saturdays and Sundays to maintain connections from/to Millbrae BART.

In order to implement the Equity Framework, Caltrain needs to survive the impacts of the pandemic that have reduced ridership by 95%. During the region’s shelter-in-place, approximately 3,600-weekday riders continue to rely on Caltrain for essential travel. In September, the Caltrain Board of Directors voted to suspend certain fare increases over the next year that will help ensure the system continues to be accessible to these riders.

Ridership is not expected to fully recover in 2021. Depending on public health conditions, Caltrain may need to make further service adjustments including scaling service levels up or down to meet changing needs.

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