South San Francisco station (Caltrain)

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South San Francisco
Commuter rail
US 101 over the South San Francisco Caltrain Station.jpg
South San Francisco station is underneath Grand Avenue. Bayshore Freeway crosses south of the station.
Location 590 Dubuque Avenue
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Coordinates 37°39′21″N 122°24′18″W / 37.65583°N 122.40500°W / 37.65583; -122.40500Coordinates: 37°39′21″N 122°24′18″W / 37.65583°N 122.40500°W / 37.65583; -122.40500
Owned by Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board
Line(s) Caltrain
  Local service
  Limited-stop service
Platforms 1 side platform, 1 island platform
Tracks 5
Connections Oyster Point, Utah Grand
Parking Available
Bicycle facilities Lockers available
Disabled access Southbound platform only
Other information
Fare zone 1
Passengers (2014 average weekday) 432[1]Increase 19.8%
Preceding station   Caltrain logo.svg Caltrain   Following station
Local service
toward Tamien
Gilroy during peak hours
Limited-stop service
toward Tamien
Gilroy during peak hours
South San Francisco station (Caltrain) is located in San Francisco
South San Francisco station (Caltrain)

South San Francisco is a Caltrain station in South San Francisco, California, served by local and limited-stop trains. The station is on the east side of Highway 101 beneath East Grand Avenue; downtown South San Francisco is across the freeway. It is currently undergoing a substantial modernization and expansion project, scheduled to be completed in summer 2019.

Platforms and tracks[edit]

Bypass tracks  Baby Bullet No stops
Northbound  Local service toward San Francisco (Bayshore)
 Limited-stop service toward San Francisco (Bayshore)
Southbound  Local service toward Gilroy (San Bruno)
 Limited-stop service toward Tamien, Gilroy during peak hours (San Bruno)

Station amenities[edit]

  • Caltrain ticket vending machines
  • Waiting benches
  • Bike racks
  • All-day parking
  • Public telephone


The station was built before the Bayshore Freeway[2] and retains many of the aspects common to older, unmodernized stations along the Peninsula Commute; the southbound platform is not ADA-compliant, and riders for northbound trains must wait for the northbound train to come to a complete stop before crossing the southbound track to a narrow boarding platform between the tracks,[3] thus requiring the so-called "hold-out" rule (GCOR 6.30)—if a train is stopped for passengers, an approaching train in the opposite direction on the other track must wait outside the station.[4][5] In 2012, a southbound Baby Bullet express train passing through the station narrowly avoided striking passengers for a northbound train stopped at South San Francisco. The Baby Bullet express did not have a scheduled stop at the station and had ignored the hold-out rule.[6]

South San Francisco is the only hold-out rule station with regular service on weekdays: two (Atherton and Broadway) are served only on weekends; one (College Park) has only limited service, with two round-trip stops per weekday serving the nearby Bellarmine Prep; and one (Stanford) is only served on Stanford's home football game days. As such, the South San Francisco station is a bottleneck.

Prometheus Brings Fire to Man, Nicolai Larsen (1996) at the South San Francisco Caltrain station parking lot.

Automobiles can reach the station from Dubuque Avenue, and a pedestrian staircase climbs to Grand Avenue, above the station. Several SamTrans routes run near the station on Airport Boulevard, but hills and tight turns make it impossible for large buses to access the station from Dubuque.[7] The south end of the parking lot features a large mural on the retaining wall for Grand Avenue entitled "Prometheus Brings Fire to Man" by artist Nicolai Larsen, painted in 1996.


In 1998, the City of South San Francisco (SSF) prepared a concept plan to relocate the station southward so that trains would stop south of the East Grand Avenue overpass in order to improve bus and pedestrian access to the station. This would allow buses currently stopping on Airport Boulevard to directly service the station and open up access from the east for employer-provided shuttles.[7][8]

In 2012 Caltrain and SSF began work on a Downtown Station Area Plan to redevelop the area around the station and make it easier to reach downtown from the station. The project would update the station by renovating the southbound platform and extending it south, and building a new northbound platform to eliminate the "hold out" rule and to be ADA-compliant. The project would include a bus and shuttle drop-off area on Airport Blvd. and an ADA-compliant pedestrian underpass to the new platform that would connect with Grand Avenue/Poletti Way (on the east) and Airport Boulevard (on the west). The west entrance would also feature a new pedestrian plaza at the southeast corner of Airport Boulevard and Grant Avenue, on right-of-way currently used as a Caltrans storage yard.[9][10]

The plan was approved in February 2015[9] and will be funded by $49.1 million in funds provided by San Mateo County Measure A, a half-cent sales tax approved by county voters in 2012.[11] Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board contributed $4M and SSF contributed $9.2M, including $3.3M to expand station property and remediate soil.[12]

The current plan calls for a new 700-foot (210 m) long center boarding platform (between northbound and southbound tracks) with a pedestrian underpass connecting the platform to Grand Avenue and Poletti Drive.[13] Although construction was scheduled to begin in 2016,[14] the design was not finalized until December 2016,[13] and groundbreaking for the modernization project was held on November 6, 2017 in a ceremony attended by State Senator Jerry Hill and SSF Mayor Pradeep Gupta.[12] The new station is still projected to open in 2019.[13][14]


  1. ^ Caltrain. "February 2014 Caltrain Annual Passenger Counts" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  2. ^ "South San Francisco To Have A New S.P. Station". San Francisco Call. 102 (84). 23 August 1907. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "South San Francisco Station". Caltrain. 2016. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  4. ^ GCOR: General Code of Operating Rules (PDF). West Coast Railroaders Group (Report) (6th ed.). General Code of Operating Rules Committee. 2010. p. 6-15. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 6.30 Receiving or Discharging Passengers
     B. Responsibilities of Approaching Movements
     When notified that a passenger train will be at a station, do not pass between station platform and a passenger train until assured that all passengers and employees have cleared the track between the passenger train and the station platform. Movement may then pass when preceded by an employee walking ahead of the movement.
  5. ^ "San Francisco to San Jose Glossary of Terms" (PDF). California High-Speed Rail Authority / Caltrain JPB. 18 February 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2017. Hold-Out Rule – The rule enforced at Caltrain stations that have only one outside boarding platform which prevents a train from entering the station while another train [is] at the station boarding or alighting passengers. Platform upgrades will allow the hold-out rule to be eliminated, either by adding a second outside boarding platform on the opposite side, or by replacing the existing platform with a center-boarding platform. 
  6. ^ Rosenberg, Mike (14 September 2012). "Terrified Caltrain passengers forced to jump out of way of train". San Mateo County Times. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  7. ^ a b "4: Transportation". South San Francisco General Plan (Report). City of South San Francisco. 2014. pp. 4–34, 4–35. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  8. ^ "South San Francisco Caltrain Relocation Study". Dyett & Bhatia: Urban and Regional Planners. 1998. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  9. ^ a b "South San Francisco Downtown Station Area Specific Plan". City of South San Francisco. February 2015. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  10. ^ "South San Francisco applies for grant funding for pedestrian/bike tunnel to Caltrain". Green Caltrain. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  11. ^ emmas (13 February 2015). "South San Francisco Downtown Plan and new Caltrain station approved". Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition blog. Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Walsh, Austin (7 November 2017). "New Caltrain station constructin arrives". San Mateo Daily Journal. Retrieved 7 November 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c "South San Francisco Caltrain Station Improvement Project". Caltrain/JPB. 2016. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 
  14. ^ a b Futrell, Mike (9 February 2015). "Major Improvements Slated for South San Francisco Caltrain Station" (Press release). City of South San Francisco. Retrieved 29 January 2016. 

External links[edit]