Caltrain announced plans to purchase 16 surplus Metrolink rail cars at today’s Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board. The additional cars will be used to extend train sets and provide more capacity for standing-room only peak-hour trains.
The Bombardier Bi-Level Generation 2 rail cars will be purchased from Southern California Regional Rail Authority, which operates the Metrolink service. While these cars are similar to the Bombardier vehicles Caltrain uses, they have been phased out of use on the Metrolink system. The rail cars will require substantial rehabilitation. Caltrain will determine an exact timeline for placing the cars into service, but expects it could take up to a year.
The total cost of purchasing and renovating the equipment is $15 million. The majority of this funding will be covered by a farebox revenue bond. Caltrain will cover the remaining funds by reinvesting surplus farebox revenue into the rail car purchase. Nearly four straight years of record-setting ridership growth also has resulted in record-setting farebox returns, allowing the rail agency to set some of that funding aside to help address the capacity issues.
The additional cars are intended to provide short-term capacity relief on peak-hour trains, which frequently experience standing room only conditions as a result of this unprecedented increase in ridership. Customers are sometimes required to stand for lengthy periods during longer trips.
Caltrain’s newer Bombardier equipment and Gallery trains are currently configured with five cars, which include two bike cars. Trains can carry between 550 and 650 seated passengers. The equipment will be used to expand a number of peak hour trains to six cars.
Certain station platforms may be unable to accommodate the longer train sets. Caltrain is reviewing this issue and plans to make platform improvements before putting the trains into service.