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Caltrain Dedicated Funding Update

Political Fight Threatens to Derail
Caltrain Funding Amid Coronavirus

Mike Kransy

Please use link below to hear KQED host Mike Krasny with Dan Brekke interview Belmont Vice Mayor Charles Stone and San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton.

NOTE: the listen link is above the headline photo once you are on KQED site.


Thank you Belmont Vice Mayor Stone for your Advocacy.

Thank you Belmont Vice Mayor Stone for your Advocacy. Caltrain, the light-rail system that runs from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, faces dire financial straits after a 98% drop in ridership during the coronavirus pandemic and now, a dispute over a key future funding source. Caltrain officials are pushing to put a 0.125 percent sales tax measure on San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara county ballots this November. But the fate of that measure is uncertain after two San Francisco Supervisors blocked that board from voting to put it on the ballot. We look at the future of Caltrain as officials warn of a possible shutdown. Guests: Dan Brekke, editor and reporter, KQED News Charles Stone, member, Caltrain Board of Directors, and Belmont vice mayor Shamann Walton, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Caltrain Board of Directors

A Message from our Partners at SAMCEDA



SAMCEDA is committed to ensuring that Caltrain remains an integral part of our local and regional economy and the economic recovery we are all working on today and into the future. The Caltrain Business Plan and its underlying objective of re-inventing itself to meet future needs, through four focus areas: Service, Community Interface, Business Case, and Organization is the path forward but Caltrain must first remain a viable transit system.

COVID-19 Devastates Caltrain

It has been widely reported and confirmed that COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place (SIP) orders
in California devastated Caltrain’s strong pre-pandemic farebox recovery rate of approximately 70%. SIP orders triggered an unprecedented decline in ridership from 65,000 passengers per day to just 1,500 - compounding existing challenges associated with the agency’s lack of a dedicated non-fare revenue stream.

To save on operational costs amid the severe drop in ridership, Caltrain temporarily reduced its weekday schedule from 92 trains per day to a low of 42 trains, and now 70 trains per day with 3,200 riders per day. The railroad’s contract operator has also shifted staff from traditional operations to deferred maintenance and capital improvement projects.

June Polling Shows Support for Dedicated Funding Tax Measure on November Ballot

Nearly two-thirds of voters in the three counties Caltrain serves would support a one-eighth cent sales tax measure to preserve Caltrain service during the pandemic and to expand service in the longer term, according to a public opinion poll commissioned by the agency. The poll was conducted as Caltrain considers moving forward with a ballot measure that would provide a dedicated revenue source that would address ongoing financial impacts of the pandemic and help prevent regional traffic congestion by increasing Caltrain capacity, service levels, and ridership. Caltrain is the only Bay Area transit system without a dedicated source of revenue.

Approximately 1,255 likely voters were polled by email-to-web and by telephone surveys, from June 11 through June 18, to gauge support of a potential measure for the November ballot. Of those polled, 63.3% indicated support for a one-eighth cent sales tax measure for Caltrain. Support increases to 65.6% when including respondents that lean toward supporting. After learning more about the benefits that would be achieved with the increased investment in the system, 70.9% of respondents said they would support the tax. To pass, the measure would need support from a combined two-thirds of voters in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties. Support for the measure is up slightly from a similar poll conducted in spring 2019.

Current Status of Placing Dedicated Funding Tax Measure on November Ballot
The ongoing news and social media coverage of the debate in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties regarding placing the one-eighth cent sales tax for Caltrain on the November ballot is counter-productive to all involved.

Here is a brief overview with embedded links that provide additional detail, including the statement released this weekend by Congresswomen Speier, Eshoo, and others, the legal opinion rendered by the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) special counsel James Wagstaffe, and the letter State Senator Jerry Hill sent to the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors this morning.

  • Starting in 2019, the senior leadership of the member agencies of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Authority (Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority, the City and County of San Francisco, and the San Mateo County Transit District), over a period of many months, painstakingly crafted the Resolution authorizing the one-eighth cent sales tax measure to be on the November 2020 ballot. In March of this year, two of the authorizing agency boards enacted the resolution (SMC Board of Supervisors and the SamTrans Board of Directors).

  • In November 2019, at a Joint Powers Board (Caltrain) workshop, and affirmed at the December 2019 JPB Board meeting, San Francisco officially delinked governance from the ballot measure.

  • In March of 2020, the Caltrain/JPB Board hired special outside legal counsel Olson Remcho to review and outline a series of facts about the governance and financial history of the JPB linked here. A presentation was made to the JPB Board at their July 9th meeting linked here. The JPB Ad Hoc committee of Supervisors Chavez (SC), Walton (SF) and Pine (SMC), along with Nuria Fernandez, Santa Clara County VTA, Jeff Tumlin, San Francisco Muni, and Carter Mau, San Mateo County SamTrans were regularly updated and provided input throughout the Olson Remcho review.

  • At the July 9th JPB meeting and with full knowledge of the above, two-thirds of the JPB board, reflecting members from all three counties, stated that the JPB should proceed with the ballot measure.


In addition, in today’s SF Chronicle their Editorial Board weighed in with an editorial and the San Jose Mercury News published an opinion piece both supporting a clean ballot measure and adoption of the resolution.

Over the last few days, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties have socialized in the media an alternate proposal which is not legal under SB 797. Here are the links:

Today, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is meeting to discuss the issue of placing the measure on the ballot. The Resolution (linked in the first paragraph above) is on the BOS Agenda in Santa Clara County.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is meeting this afternoon but it is unclear as to whether this issue will be revisited. SF Muni deferred their discussion on SB 797 to a special meeting on July 31, 2020.

Again, let us reiterate that SAMCEDA is committed to ensuring Caltrain remains a viable transit system.

Old Belmont