Bay Area Council Caltrain Issues Caltrain Modernization Economic Impact Report



New Study by Bay Area Council Economic Institute Comes as State Lawmakers Consider Early High Speed Rail Investment in Caltrain

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Modernizing the Caltrain commuter service would create the equivalent of almost 9,600 jobs, increase property values and generate overall economic benefits of up to $2.5 billion, according to a new study the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released today ahead of a decision on high speed rail that could provide critical funding for the project.

The study concludes that Caltrain modernization, which includes electrification and the installation of an advanced signal system , would create almost 9,600 job-years of new employment, generate immediate economic activity of almost $1 billion, boost property values near rail stations by another $1 billion and produce a variety of other economic benefits totaling up to another half-billion dollars. A job-year is the equivalent of creating one full-time job for one year.

Rep. Anna Eshoo joined with the Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman and a diverse coalition of business, labor, community and environmental leaders to release the study, and to urge state lawmakers to approve early investment in the Caltrain modernization project as part of an overall funding package to begin construction on a new high speed rail system connecting the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

“Our vision for a modernized Caltrain is before us—ready to go, ready to be funded, ready to make Caltrain better and to make our community better. The Bay Area Council study proves that modernizing Caltrain is a win on every level— environmental, economic and assurance of the kind of future we all want for our community,” Congresswoman Eshoo said. “Today, we’re poised to take steps that will assure a vibrant future for Caltrain. It’s time to show again that California can look ahead, can think big and that the little railroad that could, can again.”

The study looked at both the near-term benefits of project-related construction, as well as the longer-term benefits to property values, reduced commute times and increased tax revenues for state and local governments. Modernizing Caltrain would make the system faster, quieter and cleaner. The improvements would also help the agency meet growing ridership demand. Caltrain has experienced 21 consecutive months of double-digit ridership growth and is approaching all-time record levels in the number of riders and revenue. Modernization will increase the capacity of the system and help accommodate regional job and population growth. .

Faster, more frequent service will also attract more riders, generating additional revenue, which will help to reduce the annual taxpayer subsidy required to operate the system. Also, by speeding up Caltrain, modernization will reduce commute times, resulting in an overall time-saving value of up to $370 million. The report also suggested the project would have additional benefits of supporting new, smart-growth development along the rail line.

“Our region needs this investment, our construction industry needs this, our environment needs this and frustrated drivers on Highway 101 need this. The state Legislature must approve this investment,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, which has been a strong advocate for investing in the electrification and modernization project. “Caltrain serves one of the most economically productive corridors in California and the nation, and one of the busiest and most congested commuter corridors in the Bay Area region. Electrifying this vital transportation system will boost ridership, clean up our air and remove thousands of cars a day from Highway 101. At the same time, it lays the foundation for high speed rail to come to the Bay Area.”

More than $700 million in funding for the Caltrain electrification and modernization project would come from an early investment by the California High Speed Rail Authority, whose trains eventually would share the tracks with Caltrain under a “blended system” running between San Jose and San Francisco through Silicon Valley and along the Peninsula. The Bay Area Council supports the blended approach, which was . designed in response to community concerns that four sets of tracks running side by side would create unwanted impacts.

Whether and how soon the Caltrain modernization project moves forward will be decided in the coming weeks as state lawmakers consider the fate of $6 billion in voter-approved high speed rail bonds. Also at stake are billions of dollars in federal matching funds for high speed rail. The high speed rail authority included funding for Caltrain and similar regional rail transit services in Southern California to help reduce the overall cost of the high speed rail system and reduce the time needed for construction.

“For our region to grow and thrive we must invest in modernizing critical transportation infrastructure like Caltrain,” said Adrienne Tissier, chair of both the Caltrain Board of Directors and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which played a lead role in developing the agreement between the high speed rail authority and Caltrain for the early investment. “Investing in Caltrain will have significant and lasting benefits for our economy, jobs and our environment.”

Download the full report: The Economic Impact of Caltrain Modernization

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About the Bay Area Council Economic Institute

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute is a partnership of business with labor, government, higher education and community leaders that works to support the economic vitality and competitiveness of California and the Bay Area. It produces authoritative analyses on key economic issues in the region and the state, and mobilizes leaders from diverse backgrounds around targeted policy initiatives. A sought-after source of economic perspective, its public-private governance and fact-based approach to economic analysis underpin the Institute’s forward-looking thought leadership (

About the Bay Area Council

The Bay Area Council is a business-sponsored, public-policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area. The Council proactively advocates for a strong economy, a vital business environment, and a better quality of life for everyone who lives here. Founded in 1945, the Bay Area Council is widely respected by elected officials, policy makers and other civic leaders as the voice of Bay Area business. Today, approximately 275 of the largest employers in the region support the Bay Area Council and offer their CEO or top executive as a member. Our members employ more than 4.43 million workers and have revenues of $1.94 trillion, worldwide.

Comments from Supporters

"This report illustrates the importance of High Speed Rail making early investments in regional rail corridors,” Director Jim Hartnett, California High Speed Rail Authority Board. “The High-Speed Rail Authority Board is committed to early investment such as modernizing Caltrain and providing economic benefits to the state and regional economies and greatly enhancing the commuter experience.”

“Caltrain modernization is a jobs program – now and for years to come. It will produce more than 9,500 jobs. This will mean thousands more across all job sectors, including retail, science and technology, manufacturing and health care. And more than 8,000 jobs will stay right here in the Bay Area,” said Shelley Kessler, Executive Secretary-Treasurer for the San Mateo County Central Labor Council. “Caltrain modernization has to be funded now for the jobs it will provide, the economic growth it will bring and the future it will assure of a cleaner, more livable region.”

“Electrification will allow Caltrain to operate as a 21st Century commuter system,” said Assemblyman Rich Gordon (Menlo Park), who was in the trio of lawmakers who proposed bringing the ‘Blended System’ to the Peninsula. “The environmental benefits and improved service times will help meet the growing demand of Caltrain commuters.”

“In addition to providing the Peninsula and the Bay area will a host of economic benefits, Caltrain modernization will offer significant environmental enhancements,” Mike Ferreira, Loma Prieta Chapter, Sierra Club. “By reducing the system’s emissions by over 90% and providing better transit service to provide a growing number regional commuters with a clean, reliable commute alternative, Caltrain modernization is exactly the kind of project that will help us meet statewide air quality improvement goals.”

"If we are going to be successful in stabilizing our economy and moving beyond this recession, we have to focus on investments that create jobs," said Neil Struthers, CEO of the Santa Clara & San Benito Building & Construction Trades Council. "Funding the early investment in Caltrain modernization is an investment in jobs creation, nearly 10,000 of them -- we need to pass this now for a stronger Bay Area economy."

"This is an opportunity that comes along once in a generation – maybe less. We need these jobs, we need this economic growth and we need to act now to modernize Caltrain," said William Nack, executive officer, San Mateo County Building and Trades Council. "On behalf of San Mateo County’s Building and Trades workers, I urge our state legislature to approve funding to support Caltrain Modernization."

"We need to take advantage of this opportunity to make critically-needed upgrades to the Caltrain system. While Caltrain already helps improve air quality and reduces traffic congestion by providing Peninsula workers with an affordable, reliable commute alternative, a modernized system could do so much more to benefit the Bay Area," said Daly City Councilman David Canepa. "Electrifying the system will radically enhance those benefits and will help improve our regional economy by creating thousands of desperately-needed jobs for local workers and adding value to the slowly recovering housing market."