Caltrain Ridership Back on the Rise

Caltrain Ridership Back on the Rise


After a slight decrease in ridership last year, Caltrain’s annual ridership count shows that Caltrain ridership grew by 1.5 percent. Initial findings from the annual onboard ridership count show that average mid-weekday ridership (AMWR) for 2018 is at 65,095 passengers.  

Due to increasing costs and budget constraints, the weekday count methodology was changed from counting weekday trains on all five weekdays (Monday to Friday) to counting weekday trains on two mid-weekdays (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  In order to provide an “apples to apples” comparison to last year’s count, Monday and Friday ridership data was extracted from 2017 data.  AMWR also captures the true maximum load because ridership is lower on Mondays (by approximately 1 percent) and Fridays (by approximately 9 percent).  For weekends, riders were counted for one weekend on each train once on a Saturday and a Sunday.

The results of the annual ridership count, given to the Board of Directors at its monthly meeting last Thursday, provides a snapshot of Caltrain ridership that is used to identify trends, allocate resources to address capacity issues and validate revenue-based ridership estimates.

Most riders continue to travel during peak commute hours.  There was a 2.5 percent increase in traditional peak riders (defined as northbound in the morning and southbound in the afternoon) from 33,548 riders in 2017 to 34,373 in 2018.  There was a 9.2 percent decrease in midday riders, 5.1 percent increase in reverse peak riders (southbound in the morning and northbound in the afternoon) and 5.8 percent decrease in evening riders.

Average mid-weekday ridership is up at 18 stations, and down at 11 stations. Hayward Park, College Park, Belmont, Gilroy, Capitol, Blossom Hill, 22nd Street, and Morgan Hill all had more than 10 percent growth.  The 10 most popular train stations are San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose Diridon, Mountain View, Redwood City, Sunnyvale, Millbrae, Hillsdale, San Mateo and 22nd Street.

When comparing average mid-weekday ridership by county, Santa Clara County still has the highest average weekday ridership with 27,687, a 0.8 percent drop from last year; San Mateo County has the second-most at 19,757, 4.1 percent higher than 2017 and San Francisco County has 17,651, a 0.2 percent decrease.  Average mid-weekday ridership has increased by 15.4 percent on the Gilroy extension, which includes the Capitol, Blossom Hill, Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy stations, from last year.

Results indicate that riders are traveling shorter distances on Caltrain, with the average weekday trip length for 2018 being 22.9 miles, compared to 23.4 in 2017.

During peak period travel, Local service had the highest growth, with a 17.5 percent increase in ridership.  Limited service clocked in at 5.1 percent and Baby Bullet service had a 1.1 percent increase.

Average mid-week bike ridership (AMWBR) increased by 6 percent this year, with 5,919 riders bringing bikes on Caltrain on an average weekday.  For the seventh year, the number of bike riders that were not able to board the train due to overcrowding was counted.  There was a substantial decrease in bikes bumped due to capacity, with only 1.6 riders bumped per 1,000 bike boardings versus 3.2 in 2017.

The count, a physical head count of riders, is typically conducted in January and February when there are fewer holidays and special events that could skew ridership numbers. The count data is used as Caltrain’s ridership baseline.

This data will also be incorporated into the Caltrain Business Plan in order to strategize for future scheduling and passenger capacity. Caltrain also looks forward to the ability to monitor ridership more frequently using Automatic Passengers Counters (APCs) that will be installed on the new electric fleet in 2022. Later this month, the entirety of the 2018 Annual Count Key Findings Report will be uploaded to


About Caltrain: Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with limited commute service to Gilroy. Caltrain enjoyed more than five years of consecutive monthly ridership increases, surpassing more than 65,000 average weekday riders. While the Joint Powers Board assumed operating responsibilities for the service in 1992, the railroad celebrated 150 years of continuous passenger service in 2014. Planning for the next 150 years of Peninsula rail service, Caltrain is on pace to electrify the system, reduce diesel emissions by 97 percent by 2040 and add more service to more stations.

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Media Contact: Dan Lieberman, 650.508.6385