Real Time

Frequently Asked Questions
Caltrain provides real-time train departure information at most of the stations* through visual message displays and audio announcements. We’ve created the FAQs to assist customers with understanding what to expect from the system.  If you have a question that hasn’t been answered, please let us know by submitting a comment HERE

What is Caltrain Real-time and where can I find it?
Caltrain Real-time uses a combination of locomotive-equipped Global Positioning System and a rail operating control system to determine train location and departure prediction provided by the scheduled time. The prediction is available at the stations with visual messages, on Caltrain’s website and on the 511 system (website, mobile, phone).

Is Caltrain Real-time actually "real-time"?
The term "real-time" describes the predictive time when Caltrain will depart, not arrive, from a scheduled station. At the Caltrain stations, the system provides status updates if a train is predicted to depart more than 2 minutes late from the scheduled time.  On the Caltrain website and 511 the system presents a countdown to the departure time.

What can I expect from "real-time"? 
At the station:
- Predictive departure times (next 2 trains within the next 60 minutes)
- Display will show train number, schedule departure time, status update compared to the scheduled time 
- "Minutes late" status update
- Audio announcements when train is approaching or train lateness is greater than 5 minutes.

On caltrain.com: 
- Predictive countdown to the next departure time (next 3 trains)
- Each station page will display real-time interface (auto-refreshes every minute)
- Drop-down station selection option (does NOT auto-refresh)
- Mobile-friendly web interface option
- NEW! Alerts Subscription (BETA)

On 511.org: 
- Predictive countdown to the next departure time by route (next 3 trains or within next 90 minutes)
- Drop-down route selection menu (Local, Limited or Baby Bullet)
- Drop-down direction selection menu 
- Drop-down station stop menu

I receive this error message on the website: "An error occurred contacting the web service"
This error message is displayed when no data is transferring through the web service. This is temporary and should come back online.

I do not see any predictions on the website.
During a major service interruption, predictions are turned off when in manual mode . Once service is back to normal, predictions will be reactivated.

Why do some train approaching announcements mention train numbers and others don’t?
Due to the length of the display and audio message, only the train stopping at the station will have the audio message saying “Attention – train XYZ approaching”.  Announcements without train numbers refers to trains which are not scheduled to stop at the station (“Attention – train approaching”). While customers are at the stations, Caltrain strongly advises everyone to stand behind the yellow line at all times.  Note: Not all the trains will be announced when approaching a station.

Why are there train numbers different from the scheduled timetable?
Caltrain offers additional service to accommodate extra riders to local events. Most of the special service predictions also will be available on the Caltrain Real-time system. Trains with a published scheduled for an event will start with “S” and the following numbers will represent the train direction (odd numbers are northbound and even numbers are southbound). In addition, trains adding extra capacity along the Caltrain corridor designated with “A” will normally run in advance of the regularly scheduled train (i.e. train A39 runs in advance of train 139)

Why do some station displays say “arriving” and others say “departing”?
A train departing its first scheduled station will display “departing” while along the line the displays will show “arriving”.

What happens to the predictions at stations where the train may leave up to 5 minutes earlier (as noted in the timetable)?
The system will never predict trains departing early at the stations. Please refer to the timetable, if the train, station and schedule is marked, make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the train departure time.

Can you turn off the audio announcements during certain hours of the day?
Caltrain keeps the train approaching announcements available at all times as a caution reminder to customers at the stations.

How come the “train delay” and “approaching” audio and visual messages are sometimes late?
During the implementation and testing phase, the project team noticed the lateness of some of the announcements at the stations. Even though the Real-time predictions provided by the system at the stations, website and 511 are at 95 percent confidence level, we’re investigating whether the delay may be caused by the aging communications infrastructure. Customers should always remain behind the yellow safety line on the platforms.   

Are you a developer looking for the Caltrain real-time API?
Click here for more information.

* Stations without visual and audio messages are Capitol, Blossom Hill, Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy. Stations without visual messages are 22nd Street, South San Francisco, Broadway, Atherton, Stanford Stadium and College Park.

2/14/14 - rjc