Lauren Hepler | Silicon Valley Business Journal

Caltrain, Silicon Valley's primary commuter rail system, is slated to upgrade to new trains by 2019. Could a new coalition of businesses help move the needle sooner on upgrades to help address spiking ridership demand?
Caltrain, Silicon Valley’s primary commuter rail system, is slated to upgrade to new trains by 2019. Could a new coalition of businesses help move the needle sooner on upgrades to help address spiking ridership demand?

Along with gourmet corporate cafeterias and sprawling, insular tech campuses, Silicon Valley employers are famous for their unique approach to commuter benefits — namely, the practice of eschewing public transit for private charter buses.

Now, however, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that businesses including Google Inc., Oracle Corp. LinkedIn Corp., Stanford University and the San Francisco 49ers are among a group of area employers coming together to form a new Caltrain Commuter Coalition to improve local rail transit.

“This is the result of conversations we have had for years with these companies,” Seamus Murphy, Caltrain’s director of government and community affairs, told the Chronicle. “They realize that they can’t continue to rely on shuttles or expand shuttles, and they’ve been frustrated, frankly, that they can’t rely on Caltrain or public transportation.”

As we have reported, Caltrain has struggled to keep up with surging ridership demands — particularly in the northern corridor running from San Francisco to Peninsula tech hubs like Palo Alto and Mountain View — ahead of a planned upgrade to new, electric trains in 2019. In the 10 years since the regional rail provider has offered a bullet train from San Francisco into the South Bay, the average number of daily weekday riders has jumped from 24,000 to 61,000 passengers.

In the meantime, the Chronicle reports that the new coalition will focus on the electrification effort and other capacity issues. Specifically, the group will, “press for funding to expand the commuter railroad’s capacity, replace its trains pulled by diesel locomotives with electric trains, extend the tracks to the Transbay Terminal and make other improvements.” Read more