Caltrain Surveys Show Riders Plan to Return


Caltrain has released a series of recent surveys and studies that show that its riders plan on returning to the service.

The COVID-19 Rider Survey sought a clearer picture of how the pandemic would affect future ridership patterns. Fifty-five percent of riders plan on riding the same or more after the pandemic, while a third of riders expect to ride less and a mere 1% say they won’t return to the system. A breakdown of the income levels of riders show that riders that earn under $50,000 a year are the most likely to still be riding Caltrain. The returning level of ridership is in line with the findings of the polling behind a potential Caltrain revenue measure, which showed that 43% of all people surveyed, 68% of infrequent riders and 71% of frequent riders planned on riding as much or more than they previously had.

The Triennial Customer Survey is a comprehensive questionnaire conducted every three years, with the most recent one conducted in 2019. The survey shows the amount of riders that have access to a car has dropped by from 60% to 51%. It also shows growth in the number of riders doing so to avoid traffic (72%, up from 62% in 2016) and to protect the environment (43%, up from 26%). 2019 also marks the first year where people of color make up the majority of Caltrain’s ridership (52%, up from 47% in 2016). The system remains a cosmopolitan one, with 41% of riders being born in 107 countries other than the US.

A survey of Go Pass companies provided further insight, pointing out that 92% of employees at companies that participate in the Caltrain Go Pass Program are currently telecommuting, compared to 13% prior to the pandemic.

Caltrain’s Market Segmentation Study shows that both Caltrain riders and non-riders from all three counties view the system more favorably than BART, Clipper, VTA and Muni, as well as transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft. The top two recommendations by non-riders as to how to increase ridership were to improve connectivity and lower the price of riding, which the Caltrain Board is currently exploring.


About Caltrain: Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with commute service to Gilroy. 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 corridor, reduce diesel emissions by 97 percent by 2040 and add more service to more stations.

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