A Modest Proposal: Beer Train
Caltrain has problems. With counties not paying their share, a projected $30 million deficit, and no sign of a gas tax, some creative financing is in order. While all sorts of crazy-ass cost reductions are being proposed, I’m of the opinion that you need to make the train more attractive to ride (especially since the walking / Muni / VTA connections at either end are latency- and pain-inducing).
However, I have a suggestion that will both increase ridership and increase revenue from existing passengers: I propose that Caltrain sell beer ON THE TRAINS to raise revenue (and passenger morale).
Anyone who has been to Japan knows the absolute magic of beer machines. They are omnipresent (and quite likely omniscient) and one can buy up to a 2 litre “Big Boy” if necessary. (@SelfEdge reminds us there are also advanced models, but there probably isn’t enough commute time to justify a Caltrain bar car.)
But do not fret — the Caltrain beer machines shall be stocked with local and regional beer — Speakeasy, Anchor, Lagunitas, etc.
Let’s say a regular beer would go for $5, a large for $7, and Caltrain-exclusive beers (like Pliny The Commuter and Anchor Steam Engine) for $9. If everyone who rides the afternoon/evening commuter trains buys a beer, Caltrain will be saved! My math is as follows:
Let’s say there are 50 working weeks a year. This gives us 250 days of high traffic Caltrain secondary revenue opportunities. So we have $120,000 a day that Caltrain needs to make up.
- 2009-2010 ridership was just under 40,000 people per day.
- Each afternoon, there are 5 “bullet” and 9 limited stop trains during afternoon commute hours. (I am assuming people will not drink on the way to work, but boy are there ever days… And the local trains could easily drive you to drink. But I digress.)
- Considering only at the afternoon fast(er) trains, $120k/14 is just about $9K per train.
- I believe 80% of Caltrain’s revenue comes from commuters, so I’m estimating around 15,000 folks on the afternoon/evening commute. That’s close enough to 1000 people per train.
- If everyone buys two regular beers, Caltrain’s deficit will vanish!
- You could even use your Clipper card to buy a beer! (Though if you forgot to tag off you’d probably get charged for a 6-pack.)
OK, so probably not everyone will buy two beers. But this would be a sizeable chunk of revenue. And beer on the car could potentially increase ridership. Then there’s food vendors at each station — why not eat dinner on the train? Also: Japanese coffee machines for the morning commute.
Come on Caltrain, figure this one out, OK?