The view from newly opened Hillsdale station in San Mateo, CA.

Silicon Valley’s commuter-rail service, Caltrain, is in the midst of a transformation that will make it the gold standard of U.S. commuter rail.

Service will be expanded so that trains depart every 15 minutes throughout the day. The project includes electrified tracks, renovated stations, and state-of-the-art trains that run up to 110 mph.

It will be the first U.S. system that’s on par with European regional express networks, which several agencies have proposed. And it’s being made possible by California’s high-speed rail project.

The new Hillsdale station with a grade-separated crossing that opened this week in San Mateo (20 miles south of San Francisco) is the latest milestone in the transformation. Two more grade-separated crossings in San Mateo will open later this year. Nearly $98 million of the project’s $206 million cost came from funds approved for California’s high-speed rail project.

The Caltrain main line runs about 50 miles, from San Francisco to San Jose (with rush-hour service extending to Gilroy). Ridership on Caltrain has more than tripled since 2004. It’s expected to double again when the system transformation is complete next year.

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