The article said it costs $60M to run the trains presently, plus $30M more for fuel, administration, insurance, and other costs. For $60M in a 360 day year that's about $170,000 per day. Figure a train has a complement of 5 people (engineers and conductors), they cost $500 each, so an engine + some cars costs $2500 per day to staff. I, uh, I'm going to have trouble getting up to $170,000 to run Caltrain for a day at this rate. So I begin to wonder: how much *should* running a passenger railroad cost? Is $170,000 for hourly + commute lines reasonable? If you were to design a commuter rail system along the peninsula today, and you already have the stations and rails that exist today, would it look like Caltrain? (Heavy rail? More frequent but smaller trains?)
I'm also surprised that no one's connected transit's woes, especially Caltrain's issues, with big employers in Silicon Valley now offering their own transportation. Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Apple, and I'm sure others all contract for bus service from San Francisco, the East Bay, and even Santa Cruz to Santa Clara county. Surely Caltrain's lowered ridership is due in part to taking these buses. And why wouldn't a Googler or Yahooligan take the bus? They run more often, they pick up from within San Francisco, they drop off at your place of work, they have wireless internet onboard, and on them you're surrounded by familiar and friendly faces.
The funny thing is, even if the cost of riding Caltrain were less, I don't expect it would get more riders. For example, I would be happy pay for Caltrain fair for someone else if that kept them off the freeways. Think of it as congestion offsets; I'm still going to take my car. But I doubt this sort of offer will make a dent. People who don't take Caltrain today likely do it because the service doesn't fit their needs, not because it's too expensive.