Caltrain contingency plan

Update: I’ve been meaning to update this with new ECR route info from Samtrans. Sorry!

It’s helpful to know nearby transit connections in case of ‘track incidents’ on Caltrain.

Note: Be sure to read the comments below for other suggestions.

Santa Clara County Caltrain to transit connections

I commute between San Jose and Palo Alto on Caltrain, so my contingency is very simple: I ride the VTA 22 or 522 bus. These buses follow El Camino Real and the the Alameda between those two cities, and stops are within a mile of almost all Caltrain stations. Both are fairly frequent services during the day. The 522 is a “Rapid” service with limited stops, while the 22 stops on almost every block and is painfully slow. If you can get to a 522 stop, you should.

Be aware that I’m always faster on my bike than the #22 bus for almost any pair of stops, while the 522 can be a little faster over distances longer than five or six miles, but YMMV. Still, the bus is handy if I don’t feel like riding for whatever reason: darkness and I have no lights, bike mechanical issue, weather, etc.

Here’s a diagram I whipped up illustrating walking distances from Caltrain stops to the nearest VTA 22/522 stop in Santa Clara County. El Camino Real runs to the (nominal) west of the Caltrain tracks. In other words, you’ll be on the southbound tracks side of the Caltrain station.

Caltrain Plan B Santa Clara

  • At Palo Alto, 22/522 starts and ends at the Caltrain station.
  • Cal Ave: walk down California Avenue to ECR.
  • San Antonio Station: Showers Road to ECR.
  • Mountain View: Castro Street through downtown to ECR.
  • Sunnyvale: Sunnyvale Ave to ECR.
  • Lawrence: Hope you’re not stuck there. Pull up your map app if you’re here.
  • Santa Clara: Cross the Caltrain parking lot to bus stop.
  • San Jose Diridon: Walk toward the big white building. The bus stop is directly in front of the HP Pavilion.

South of Tamien, VTA 68 stops at or very near the Caltrain stations in Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy. It’s a very long bus ride if you need to go the distance.

VTA adult fare is $2. The ride is free if you have a 2 or more zone monthly pass on your Clipper card. VTA also usually allows free rides during Caltrain track incidents if you have a valid Caltrain ticket.

San Mateo County Caltrain to local transit connections

SamTrans KX, 292, 390 and 391 are multicity bus services in San Mateo County that each stop at several Caltrain stations, so you don’t need to find your way across several unfamiliar blocks to find the nearest bus stop.

  • KX is a commuter express that takes about an hour and half to travel between Palo Alto Caltrain and the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, with stops at SFO (with access to BART there), and stops along SF Mission Street at 7th and 1st. Fare is $5 for travel into San Francisco.
  • 292 takes nearly 2 hours for the trip between Hillsdale and the Transbay Terminal. Like KX, this bus stops at SFO and at 1st Street and 7th Street along Mission. Fare into SF is $4.
  • 390 provides service between Palo Alto Caltrain and Daly City BART, with a stop at South City BART and taking almost two hours for that complete trip. Fare is $2.
  • 391 runs between Redwood City Caltrain and Mission/Evergreen with stops at San Bruno BART, South City BART, and Colma BART. The complete trip takes an hour and a half with service roughly once per hour during commute times. $2 fare.

This diagram shows which Caltrain stations these Samtrans buses stop at. $2 local fare is free with 2+ zone monthly Caltrain pass on your Clipper card. Like VTA, Samtrans will often waive their fare during Caltrain incidents.

Caltrain Plan B Samtrans

These are *not* comprehensive transit connection maps — all Caltrain stations have other transit and shuttle connections, but most of them serve very local destinations. This guide is meant to illustrate the longer range options that are available that can serve (kind of) as an alternative to Caltrain.

If you believe this is helpful, please punch one or all of the social media buttons near the top of this page. Thanks!


  1. Why not put the actual BART lines on there 😉

    Also for SF from PA, there is Dumbarton express to UC BART.

  2. No BART because I ran out of room at the top of the diagram, and I’m lazy and didn’t want to start over.

    Good call on DB Express to UC; I didn’t even consider that.  Total trip time PA to UC to Embarcadero BART is about 90 minutes or so, right?

  3. Nice!  One thing to tweak on the KX:  It gets off the 101 at Hillsdale Blvd, lets you off within a block of Hillsdale CalTrain.  I don’t know why SamTrans doesn’t list Hillsdale CalTrain on the timetable.

  4. Good to know, thanks.

    I’ll likely redo both diagrams a little when I have a chance to make them look a little better, and possibly include the BART connections @murphstahoe:disqus suggested.

  5. This guide is very helpful! I should have considered the bus after the Caltrain-ocalypse yesterday. After a two-hour service delay, I could have just biked from Menlo Park to SJ in the same amount of time probably.

  6. Would be even mote useful if Samtrans ever got its nextbus arrival data on 511 as they’ve been promising since 2010.

  7. I commute from downtown SJ to SF, so my alternative go-to when Caltrain is delayed (and during non-commute hours), is VTA bus 181 to Fremont Bart to SF. 181 is an express bus and is $4 (although only $2 on the way back with a Bart transfer).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.