Wednesday 4/9: MTC to consider divvying up Dumbarton funds, giving most to BART

On Wednesday, April 9, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Programming and Allocations Committee will hold a public hearing on proposals to adjust  various Regional Measure 2 bridge toll funded projects that are not moving forward as planned.   One of the stalled projects is Dumbarton rail.   The proposal is to re-allocate $14.7 million to purchasing express buses currently serving the corridor including possible extension to Redwood City, and $20 million to Caltrain electrification – and to permanently forgive a $91Million loan made to the BART-Warm Springs project.

In addition, $50 million funding from San Mateo County Measure A funds, which were borrowed from the Caltrain grade separation account, are recommended by SMCTA staff to be moved back to grade separations.

The Dumbarton Rail project was stalled following the failure of the last Alameda County transportation ballot measure which would have funded it.   The Dumbarton Express bus, which connects Union City and Menlo Park/Palo Alto/Stanford, has been seeing ridership increases, with 1328 daily boardings, up 15% from the previous year, following increase in service funded by RM2 money.
The shifting of funds to the Dumbarton buses and Caltrain electrification make sense. The Dumbarton buses build ridership on a corridor that is congested and is expected to gain in demand over time until it makes sense to upgrade to rail.  Having electrified Caltrain rail service on the west side of the bay will help with connections.
But dedicating the bulk of the funding to BART to Warm Springs makes less sense.   The Cities of Menlo Park and Palo Alto, which are the western points of the route, are both sending letters to the MTC requesting not to forgive the loan.  Instead, funding could be used for more improvements to the Dumbarton corridor, including transit signal priority to speed the bus, extending bus service to Redwood Shores, and developing a spur line serve the corridor from Redwood City to East Palo Alto.