Tuesday 7/23: San Mateo County Supervisors to hear from voters about transit funding

On Tuesday morning, July 23, the San Mateo County Supervisors will hear from voters and stakeholders about spending some of a new sales tax, passed last November, for SamTrans, which would also help it support Caltrain.

If you live or work in San Mateo County, sign this petition now  to let the Supervisors know you care about keeping buses, shuttles, and trains running. Also, RSVP if you can come to the meeting. Unfortunately, the Supervisors’ discussion of transit funding is Agenda Item #12, which will be discussed some time between 9 and 12:30 (!). Not so convenient if you have to get to work. Friends of Caltrain will be there to present the petition signatures in person.

The good news is that the Supervisors Staff Report published on Thursday recommends allocating $5Million per year over the next two budget years to fund SamTrans. This funding would enable SamTrans to meet its ParaTransit requirements (which are required but not funded by the Americans with Disabilities Act), and will help it to continue to run buses, shuttles and trains with less risk of cuts.

Without this funding, SamTrans says that it will be $5.2million short of what it owes to Caltrain. In the last year, the funding formula, which allocates Caltrain operating funding to the three counties in proportion to ridership, was tweaked in a way that lightens the load a bit for San Mateo County. The old formula allocated the share of operating funding according to AM peak boardings. The new formula allocates funding responsibility according to all day boardings.

Feb. 2013 Ridership
All Day Boardings AM Peak
Santa Clara County 42.3% 44.7%
San Mateo County 31.6% 35.0%
San Francisco City/County 26.1% 20.3%
100.0% 100.0%

The other partners, San Francisco and Santa Clara County VTA, expect to be able to pay their share.   But if San Mateo County is short on its contribution to Caltrain, the other agencies will cut proportionately, and Caltrain will be left with a $16Million budget hole.

The Supervisors decision would fund SamTrans for two years. In the mean time, there are several other sources of funding that could be used to help fund SamTrans and Caltrain.

  • PlanBayArea, the large plan to coordinate Bay Area transit and land use, passed last Thursday, with provisions and amendments to provide increased funding for transit.
  • Because of its growth in ridership, Caltrain is likely to qualify for a new Transit Performance initiative approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
  • In August, SamTrans will reorganize its El Camino service to run more frequently during the week.  A similar change during the weekend increased ridership and revenue; watch for results from the weekday change.
  • There may be opportunities to improve the the GoPass program, generating more revenue.

Even more changes will be needed to get Caltrain out of this pattern of budget suspense. Enabling San Mateo to keep its commitment now will keep the Joint Powers Agreement functioning, and is a key step to keeping the system going without cuts.