Caltrain Electrification Sparks Appreciation

By Michael Repka

Over the past 15 years, we have seen a shift in buyers’ preferences away from remote estates located far up into the hills and towards fine properties closer to city centers.

While no group is ever homogenous, many tech buyers and buyers from large urban centers, such as New York, Boston, Shanghai, and New Delhi prefer the energy and convenience of a centrally-located home over the serenity and space of an estate in the hills. However, fears of noise from Bay Area trains, coupled with the possible negative impact of high-speed rail, have held some buyers back.

After a tremendous amount of back-and-forth, with conflicting proposals from a variety of different interest groups, it looks like the future of train traffic through the San Francisco Peninsula may finally be resolved.

Recently, the Federal Transit Administration (the “FTA”) approved a grant for funding 32% ($647 million) of the total project to electrify the Caltrain tracks from San Francisco to San Jose. This funding should have a material impact on the value of homes along the Caltrain Corridor because of the overall reduction in noise.

Anyone who has spent much time in Asia or Europe is familiar with the whisper-quiet electric trains that whisk along the tracks. After much debate, it appears very likely that Caltrain, with the federal government’s help, is going to invest $1.9 billion in electrifying all of the tracks that run along the Central Expressway and Alma Street.

For years, some buyers hesitated to purchase homes in some of the most desirable neighborhoods on the peninsula, such as Old Palo Alto, Evergreen Park, Southgate, Lloyden Park, and similar areas in Menlo Park and Mountain View. These buyers’ concerns included the noise from the old-fashion trains and fears over high-speed rail.

Now that it appears we may have a resolution, which will probably not include a high-speed corridor through the peninsula and will include much quieter electric trains, we are optimistic that we will see appreciation in the areas formally stigmatized by train concerns.