MTC considering regional approach to Cap and Trade; BART, Muni, AC Transit have dibs

Last Wednesday,  the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Programming and Allocations Committee heard a staff proposal of a way to allocate the expected Transportation Cap and Trade funding.   The final decision will be made in Sacramento in the state’s budget. But the region is seeking to come up with an agreed upon set of requests to include in the budget bill.  What does this mean for the region’s transit, and how is this likely to affect Caltrain?

The first chunk of funding, about 25% of the total, is proposed to be set aside for BART, Muni, and AC Transit for investments in the state of good repair of aging fleets over the next 15 years.  A reason that MTC wants to accelerate this program is that BART is currently in the process of purchasing a new fleet to replace 40 year old vehicles and will get a better deal if they can order more cars.   The investments leverage other regional funds and require a 30% local match, resulting in about $7 billion of the $17 billion maintenance backlog. The local match for San Francisco and for Alameda Counties are expected to come from funding measures going on the ballot in 2014.

The reason given to prioritize these agencies is that  they  serve a large proportion of the growth in the area’s population. Although the Caltrain corridor is also serving a fair amount of regional population growth, MTC staff explained that Caltrain has recently received a major infusion of regional funding with last summer’s deal to fund the Electrification project.

Caltrain is eligible for funding in several other categories in the MTC proposal. The Transit Operating and Efficiency Program is designed to reward agencies that increase ridership and efficiency, which Caltrain has been doing in recent years.   The One Bay Area Grant Program is administered at the County level and can fund station access and transit-oriented housing.

The Climate Initiatives bucket, administered by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, may have a particular opportunity for Caltrain.  Several cities on the Caltrain corridor have recently launched programs designed to reduce auto mode share and vehicle trips via shuttles, other first/last mile connections, and transit subsidies.   These programs might be good candidates to attract carbon reduction funds by doing a better job of increasing Caltrain ridership. Caltrain has great potential to decrease greenhouse gas emissions because new Caltrain riders are typically people who would otherwise drive.

In addition to these proposals, the bill in Sacramento that is expected to define how CAP and Trade revenue is used has a section covering regional and inter-regional rail improvements.  This would include High Speed Rail, and could logically include investments in Caltrain.

This MTC proposal is not a done deal. A consortium of nonprofits including TransForm wants to see more public input, and more attention to funding that benefits low-income communities.  The committee will review the proposal at its next meeting on December 11.  In the public input – which may well extend beyond December – it would be good to include the potential for programs on the Caltrain corridor and other transit corridors targeted at increasing reducing driving and increasing transit mode share.

Other changes can happen in Sacramento – not the least, the prospect that the Governor may want to see more Cap and Trade funding used for High Speed Rail.

 

MTC Cap and Trade Funding Proposal