Website

http://www.caltrain.com has schedules, routes, fares and more.

The concourse level at Millbrae (May 2008) Caltrain is a rail line that runs from Fourth and King streets all the way down to Gilroy. The northernmost three stations are in San Francisco.

Some trains are express trains and do not make all stops. The Baby Bullet trains are a series of express trains which travel between San Francisco and San Jose in one hour. Check the schedule to make sure the train stops where you want (although all trains stop in San Francisco and San Jose). Also, be sure to stand behind the yellow area when an express train is approaching, because it may pass by very quickly!

It should be noted that unlike Muni and BART, Caltrain allows the consumption of food (including alcohol) on its trains, except after 9 on special event nights such as baseball games. Let's keep it clean, though! The same courtesy applies to the restrooms, which tend to be in the northernmost car.

You can bring your bike on Caltrain. There's a designated car for bikes, noted by a yellow bike decal on the exterior. If the bike car fills up, the cyclist must wait for the next train. You should sit in the same car as your bike.

The car adjacent to the northernmost car is usually the one accessible by riders who use wheelchairs.

Tickets

Caltrain has ticket machines on its platforms to sell single-ride tickets and day passes. When you buy a ticket from the ticket machine, tell it what zone you are going to. Do not try to count the number of zones you are going through and give that number to the ticket machine. You will end up with the wrong ticket - for example, a "Zone 4 to 4" ticket in San Jose. Check your ticket after you buy it. If you're going to San Francisco and there isn't a "Zone 1" printed on the ticket somewhere, you just bought the wrong ticket. (You can amend your mistake by purchasing a zone upgrade, instead of a whole new ticket. Ironically, you do count your zones for that.)

You can pay for your tickets with cash, credit or debit cards. If you pay in cash, you will get change with dollar coins.

Clipper

Clipper works on Caltrain (all fare inspectors carry Clipper readers). You can use Clipper cash, 8-ridebooks, or monthly passes on your Clipper card:

  • If you put an eight ride on your card, or pay for each ride a-la-carte out of your TransLink e-cash balance, you have to tag in and tag out each ride.
    • Caltrain charges you a full fare when you tag on, and then refunds part of it when you tag off. ​If you fail to tag off, you'll be charged the maximum one-way Caltrain fare from the station where you boarded. A patron may refer to this as "going to Gilroy" or "going to San Francisco" because they have been charged the fare for those stations.
    • You need to have at least $1.25 on your card to use an 8-ride ticket. This is because Caltrain will let your balance go negative, but only so far. This also means that if you forgot to tag off and accidentally went to Gilroy, you'll need to add more money to the card before you can use your otherwise-valid 8-ride tickets.
  • If you put a Monthly Pass on your card, you have to tag in and tag out once at the start of the month. Fare inspectors will thereafter see your pass (e.g. "Zone 3 to 4") until your pass expires.
    • Note that if you have a monthly pass, you need to buy a paper zone upgrade when you go outside that zone. If I have a monthly pass for zones 3-4 and I tag on in Redwood City (zone 2) and tag off in San Jose (zone 4), I will be charged for a 3-zone ticket, not a 1-zone zone upgrade. What, did you think they had computers to figure that sort of stuff out? This is Silicon Valley; no one here understands computers.

Fares

Fares are calculated based on the number of zones through which the passenger has traveled. A regular adult one-way ticket within one zone costs $2.75, and each additional zone crossed costs $2 more. Therefore, a trip from San Bruno (Zone 1) to Atherton (Zone 3) costs $6.75, the same as a trip from the San Francisco station (Zone 1) to Sunnyvale (Zone 3). Discounted fares are available for senior citizens, disabled individuals, and minors. Muni Fast Passes can't be used on Caltrain.

Stations

If you're going to San Francisco, there are two main options:

  • Buy a ticket to San Francisco 4th and King (zone 1). You will arrive at 4th and King. This is usually the cheaper option, and you will be closer to the ballpark, but it's a little bit of a trek to downtown. All trains stop at 4th and King.
  • Buy a ticket to Millbrae (zone 2). When you arrive, get off Caltrain, and walk about 10 feet (seriously) to the BART station there. You can then take BART downtown (e.g. to Powell Street Station and Union Square). Not all trains stop at Millbrae (not all Caltrain trains, and not all BART trains).  However, it is a major Caltrain stop with many trains. Also, once you get on a BART train at Millbrae, it will stop in San Francisco.

You can also travel to the 22nd Street station, but this is not close to most popular destinations. You probably don't want to travel to Bayshore.

If you're going to SFO airport via Caltrain, you will also want to transfer to BART at Millbrae. Depending on the BART schedule, you may need to make an additional transfer as well.

Station List

The stations, from north to south, include:

Zone 1

Zone 2

  • Millbrae (transfer to BART)
  • Broadway (weekends only)
  • Burlingame  (not wheelchair-accessible)
  • San Mateo
  • Hayward Park
  • Hillsdale
  • Belmont
  • San Carlos
  • Redwood City

Zone 3

  • Atherton (weekends only)
  • Menlo Park
  • Palo Alto
  • Stanford  (football games only, not wheelchair-accessible)
  • California Avenue  (not wheelchair-accessible)
  • San Antonio
  • Mountain View (transfer to VTA Light Rail)
  • Sunnyvale

Zone 4

Zone 5 (weekday commute service only)

  • Capitol
  • Blossom Hill

Zone 6 (weekday commute service only)

  • Morgan Hill
  • San Martin
  • Gilroy
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