Mayor, Supervisors plans to fund Caltrain among transit and active transportation priorities; but vehicle license measure flunks polls

Mayor Lee’s Transportation Task Force, and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority have issued similar plans to fund Muni, BART, Caltrain, and the city’s bicycling and walking plans.    Both identify sizeable shortfalls – $7.5 Billion in the SFCTA proposal, $6.3 Billion in the Mayor’s proposal – warranted to address major backlogs in maintenance and performance for Muni, core capacity improvements for BART, to keep obligations to Caltrain and help fund the Downtown Extension to Transbay, and to fund the city’s plans for pedestrian and bicycle safety.

The Mayor’s Task Force has a 2030 time horizon, and the SFCTA plan has a 2040 time horizon, so the numbers don’t line up exactly.  The two proposals also have somewhat different funding proposals.

  • The Mayor’s task force proposes: two General Obligation bonds, each for $500 million, to fund bond eligible infrastructure improvements, in 2014 and 2024, a sales tax increased by 0.5 percent to fund remaining highest priority transportation projects, and Vehicle License Fees should increased to 2 percent to fund transportation improvements.
  • The SFCTA proposes “A combination of sources such as private sector funds, a parcel tax, sales tax, and vehicle license fee are possible candidates for generating the additional $7.5 billion recommended for the SFTP vision.

According to a City Hall staff member, the SFCTA plan is a superset of the Mayor’s proposal. It looks at a longer time horizon, and considers measures that are less fully developed and may incur controversy.  The Mayor’s task force sought to restrict consideration to more certain projects and funding sources.

Unfortunately the Vehicle License Fee proposal, which would generate $1 billion over the next decade, received bad news from recent polling showing that only 44% of voters approved of the fee, while 50% of voters disapproved.

One of the earlier-stage items on the SFCTA set of proposals is congestion pricing.  The County’s congestion management report makes the case that congestion pricing as needed to achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals and reduce gridlock.   The SFCTA vision report documents that traffic flows both ways: “the number of San Francisco residents traveling daily to work in Santa Clara County is approximately 75% the number of Santa Clara County residents employed in San Francisco.”   The vision scenario therefore calls for increased Caltrain service – and it could make sense for congestion pricing to help fund that increased service.

Another difference is that the Mayor’s proposal does not include short-term funding for the Downtown Extension to Transbay Terminal.  In November’s board meeting of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, Transbay staff presented a funding plan assuming revenues from San Francisco that are not yet in the city’s funding proposal.  Watch for this issue to be hashed out in the first few Transbay meetings in 2014.

The Caltrain funding proposal is structured to enable San Francisco to keep its commitments for Caltrain operating funding and basic electrification, which would relieve the San Francisco side of the annual Caltrain budget drama.   There is no coordination with other counties to create an overall stable funding, and no consideration of level boarding, which was identified as a priority by Caltrain after the Mayor’s task force had put together its recommendations.

The decision about the set of funding measures that will be put to the voters – likely starting in 2014 – will be made by the Board of Supervisors. Funding measures will be reviewed early in the year and finalized in the Spring.

San Francisco residents who are interested in  transit and active transportation funding can follow the process at the Board of Supervisors.

SFCTA 2040 Vision

The San Francisco planners say that the investments are needed to cope with expected growth: the region’s “Plan Bay Area projects that by 2040 San Francisco will grow to nearly one million residents, a 34% increase, and 750,000 jobs, a 29% increase. ”

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