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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Caltrain proposes 7 percent budget increase in FY2014 to accommodate ridership growth


Caltrain officials are considering a proposed $120 million operating budget for fiscal-year 2014, a 7 percent increase over FY2013. The budget increase is necessary to respond to an unprecedented growth in ridership, Caltrain officials announced late last week.

Ridership has surged more than 11 percent each year for the past three years. The agency also anticipates farebox revenue of $66.1 million and parking revenue of $3.7 million for the new fiscal year.

"Unprecedented revenue increases due to historic ridership growth, savings from prior budget years and one-time-only stopgap funds will make it possible for Caltrain to put forward a balanced budget," said Gigi Harrington, Caltrain's deputy chief executive officer for finance, in a prepared statement.

Caltrain's financial future remains uncertain beyond FY2014, however, as the agency grapples with a lack of dedicated funding and surging demand for services, agency officials said.

"We absolutely do not want to impact our customers, so we will continue to work closely with our partners and other regional stakeholders to look for solutions to Caltrain's long-term structural deficit," Harrington said. "Without a dedicated funding source, Caltrain struggles to put together a balanced budget each year, making the long-term planning needed more difficult."

Since 2010, Caltrain's ridership has increased by 38 percent. Annual ridership counts taken in February show Caltrain is carrying an average of more than 47,000 riders each week day, and the high demand is resulting in service constraints during peak hours, agency officials said.

"Caltrain is straining at the seams," said Chuck Harvey, deputy CEO of operations. "We need to look for ways to add capacity to the existing system to take some pressure off the most popular trains and to provide a more comfortable ride for our passengers."

Caltrain has proposed purchasing additional rail equipment as one option to expanding capacity.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/6/2013