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Survey: Caltrain served a larger percentage of essential workers in 2020

With Caltrain serving a higher percentage of essential workers the agency increased off-peak and weekend service, Caltrain officials said.
Photo – Caltrain Facebook


Essential workers have relied more heavily on Caltrain’s commuter-rail service in California during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to 2019, according to a Caltrain-conducted ridership survey.

The survey, released yesterday, showed that rider demographics shifted after the California’s shelter-in-place order in March 2020.

Riders with higher income largely worked in fields that more easily allowed them to work from home, leading to a larger percentage of essential workers using the service, Caltrain officials said in a press release.

Caltrain recently changed its schedule to provide increased off-peak and weekend service to accommodate essential workers when they are traveling most often, officials said.

The survey also found that average annual household income of 2020 Caltrain riders was $95,000, down from $158,000 in 2019.

The primary reason for choosing to ride Caltrain, given by 46% of the riders surveyed, was lack of access to a car, double 2019's number. 

Rider frequency also decreased last year, with 43% of riders using the service five days a week or more, down 10% from 2019. 

Meanwhile, 39% of current riders are using a monthly pass, down from 59% last year. This is another indication that tech workers are likely to make up a much smaller share of current riders compared to before the pandemic, Caltrain officials concluded.

Sixty-five percent of riders are using the service to go to work or school, down from 87% last year. Meanwhile, 20% of riders indicated they were riding for social or recreational purposes, up from 9% last year.

Caltrain's survey was conducted last year between Oct. 26 and Nov. 18.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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