Because Caltrain uses a proof-of-payment system and has no fare gates or Automated Passenger Counters (APCs), Caltrain relies on 3 methods of ridership reporting: 

1) Fare Media Sales-Based Ridership

Monthly Total Ridership and Average Weekday Ridership (AWR) are estimated based on sales data from the various methods passengers pay for Caltrain fares (“Fare Media”). Ridership estimates from Caltrain’s fare media sales-based models are included in the Caltrain Executive Director’s Monthly Report, which can be found in each Caltrain Board of Directors monthly agenda packet.

Note: Due to drastic changes in travel patterns among Caltrain riders triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Caltrain used a temporary ridership estimation methodology from April 2020 through October 2023. This methodology was based on limited conductor counts and Clipper usage data. Caltrain implemented a new Fare Media Sales-Based Ridership Model in November 2023.

2) National Transit Database (NTD) Ridership

Caltrain provides Monthly and Fiscal Year (FY) end ridership to the NTD. Monthly ridership and FY end reported to the NTD are reported as Unlinked Passenger Trips (UPTs). Federally mandated on-board passenger counts are conducted to fulfill NTD requirements which require a random selection of statistically-valid ride checks to represent the transit agency’s sample group. Caltrain Fiscal Year (FY) end ridership is statistically-valid as the quarterly sampling plan utilizes the NTD Sampling Template. The NTD profile for the Peninsula Corridor Joint Power Board (PCJPB), the governing body for the Caltrain, can be found on the NTD webpage.

3) Annual Count Ridership

Caltrain does an extensive onboard ridership count once a year in the January/February timeframe. The annual passenger counts are an actual census of passengers and are used to validate the monthly ridership estimation derived from fare media sales. The reports below contain key findings, including average number of weekday boardings at each station, bicycle ridership and station rankings. 

Note: The Caltrain Annual Passenger Counts were not conducted in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.