If you agree - let them know, use this handy email link to send a message to Caltrain customer service, copying the Caltrain board and staff at the same time.
UPDATE: - Response from Caltrain
John – your letter to the Caltrain Board of Directors and Citizens Advisory Committee was referred to me for response. (Please note that Astrid Lindell is no longer with the agency.)Here is the original letter
Your suggestion is very timely because I have been working with staff from our Finance and Rail departments to discuss the impacts of possibly eliminating the 8-ride Ticket. We are still evaluating the positives and negatives and hope to have a recommendation in the coming months. However, if we proceed with recommending its elimination, we would seek customer and community input before holding a public hearing.
Thank you for continuing to want to improve Caltrain.
Dear Caltrain Board, Staff, Citizen's Advisory Committee, MTC Board Member Wiener -
I am writing to implore you to revisit your fare structure which is currently failing both your ridership and your organization. When Caltrain adopted the Clipper Card, Caltrain decided to go through the process of keeping the "8 ride ticket" portion of their fare structure. The 8 ride ticket has been a good method of rewarding riders who are frequent riders but not riding enough to justify monthly passes. The form of the ticket was a function of Caltrain's paper ticketing system. With an electronic fare system, the 8 ride ticket made far less sense, yet Caltrain has tried - and failed - to put a square peg into a round hole.
My opinion, and that of much of your very informed ridership is that the 8 ride ticket should be eliminated, and replaced with a 15 percent discount applied to all riders who pay for single rides with their Clipper Card. The 15 percent discount is the same discount current given to riders who buy 8 ride tickets. This strategy is the same as that implemented by Golden Gate Transit, which also had paper fare books but chose to eliminate that when they went to Clipper, offering a discount to all riders paying with Clipper. As a rider of Golden Gate Transit I can attest that their transition has been far smoother than Caltrain's.While on its face, this sounds like a proposal for a fare decrease in a time of fare increases, this is a short sighted viewpoint. The troubles caused by the electronic 8 ride tickets have cost Caltrain money and tarnished the agency's reputation. I fully believe the savings to be had by those infrequent riders who manage to get a Clipper Card will be overwhelmed by increased ridership from infrequent riders who now have access to a discounted fare, and amongst your more loyal riders.
I offer the following anecdote. In August, I took a vacation and chose not to purchase a monthly pass. Instead I bought multiple different 8 ride tickets to cover the different types of trip I might take in a typical month. At the end of the month, I intended to purchase a September pass, but was left with several assorted rides left on my Clipper Card - rides which would expire in 30 days time, and could only be transferred by giving my Clipper Card which included my BART High Value ticket to someone else, also requiring me to get a new Clipper Card. So I decided to stick with 8 ride tickets. Like many other riders who use 8 ride tickets, I am discincented to ride the train - each time I ride the train I have to pay, unlike when I have a monthly pass. Caltrain loses money.The final insult came when I decided to attend the Caltrain JPB meeting last month to address this issue in Public Comment. I arrived at the train station in San Francisco, and "tagged on" my Clipper Card and boarded the train. Arriving in San Carlos, I realized that if I "tagged off" in San Carlos, I would be taking a ride for which I had no 8 ride ticket. I would be charged cash, which would deplete my cash balance. Without a cash balance on my card, I would not be able to use any of the pre-paid rides on my Clipper Card, meaning I would be forced to pay cash for a full fare ticket from the machine instead of using the discounted ride I already paid for. In disgust, I stayed on the train but made my complaints heard to all who would listen on the train.
There are many operational incentives for switching to a single ride only with Clipper Discount. There are many more anecdotal incidents like my own, all of which result in calls to Clipper Customer Service which is a cash drain on the MTC. There are currently "Add-Value" Clipper Machines at MUNI, GGT, and BART stations. Caltrain does not have them - as a computer programmer I would wager a large sum of money that this is because someone is being paid a lot of money to produce special machines for Caltrain that sell 8 ride tickets. Without 8 rides, Caltrain could simply use the same stock machines as BART does - with a reasonable requirement that Monthly passholders purchase passes online or at Walgreens. And the single ride discount would incent those now buying paper tickets to adopt Clipper, which is a goal of the MTC. This might get those customers to ride more - replacing the revenue lost by giving them a discount. And with more riders using Clipper, fare enforcement would be greatly simplified for your conductors.I urge you to adopt this strategy. Should the change produce a drop in revenue in practice, the answer is simple. Increase the fare for single rides, while leaving the Monthly Pass at the same price. This would convert a lot of riders who "do the math" to using Monthly Passes instead of 8 rides - and once they have a pass they become even more loyal to your service.