Bustling Caltrain sees trouble ahead

For the first time in a few years, Caltrain is enjoying a short period of relative financial comfort.

That’s refreshing news, seeing as how nearly half its trains and stations were almost shut down last year amid money troubles.

A rise in ridership coupled with a recent fare increase has put Caltrain in a positive spot. Last Thursday, the Caltrain board approved an $111 million spending plan that will add six more commuter trains between San Francisco and San Jose.

So the transit system should be brimming with joy and chugging towards a bright future, right?

Sadly, wrong.

Caltrain told Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News that they’re expecting to be low on money again this time next year.  Like, $40 million in debt.

How is that possible?

Even with the money approved this week to up the number of running trains to 92, the threat of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties cutting Caltrain funding in favor of their inner-city transit systems is, evidently, still a looming problem.

Even regular riders are aware of Caltrain’s constantly pessimistic outlook. One commuter told the Merc:

“Every year the sky is falling, but they never put any effort into having any kind of real solution.”

Sounds to us like maybe Caltrain needs start making some long-term money saving plans while they’re in good standing.

As of right now, Caltrain is supposedly “for the first time” considering long-term efforts to save funds and not give themselves a panic attack once every fiscal year. Plans to merge with another transit service or turning the railroad into a nonprofit are on the table.

And plans to electrify the trains — which would improve service and reduce emissions, yet be less expensive to operate — are getting a serious look.