Caltrain and Privatization Issues

Caltrain LogoCaltrain is a small, urban railway that carries 40,000 passengers per day and operates between San Jose and SF. Caltrain faces a perpetual funding problem, as its farebox recovery ratio is only 41%.

One would think that privatization might be the answer, but there’s 2 points to consider:

  1. Caltrain service was private until 1980, when Southern Pacific gave up due to on-going losses and it was “nationalized”
  2. the Caltrain right-of-way is planned to be used for the eventual high-speed rail system between San Jose and LA via SF. Privatizing anything before the new system is built would enormously complicate negotiations.

I suppose contracting out operations would save money, but outright privatizing of Caltrain may not be a good idea at this point.

An example of the disadvantage of privatizing an essential transportation asset is the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, owned by billionaire “Matty” Moroun. Any suggestion of affecting the existing traffic using that bridge results in an automatic lawsuit.

Caltrain will probably always find enough money to continue operating. Dumping 40,000 cars onto local highways is not feasible, and Stanford University commuters rely on Caltrain.

greencaltrain.org: Upcoming Funding Choices for Caltrain
wikipedia: Caltrain, Ambassador Bridge

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