State budget good for Caltrain funding

The California state budget agreement reached last week and voted on Sunday includes provisions to use Cap and Trade funding in a way that is likely help the Caltrain budget for years to come.

The cap and trade funding includes ongoing funding that can be used for transit in three different categories:

  • 5% for Low Carbon Transit Operations – this is allocated by formula grant to transit agencies
  • 10% for Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program – this is allocated by competitive grant to different agencies
  • 10% for Sustainable Communities – these are allocated by competitive grant, and could fund local or agency initiatives to reduce carbon emissions

Critical for Caltrain electrification, the budget includes an annual ongoing allocation of 25% for High Speed Rail. The California High Speed Rail Blog explains how this is likely to help the High Speed Rail Authority stabilize its funding plan, by providing a base of funding to borrow against to help finance initial construction.  If the High Speed Rail Authority is able to move ahead, it will be able to keep its commitment to fund Caltrain electrification.  Caltrain has the money to complete the current EIR and planning, but will need more money for rail cars and implementation.

The Cap and Trade funding is expected to raise $850 million in budget year 2015, growing to $3 to $5 billion annual in future years.  The first year is expected to provide $4.5 million each to Caltrain directly and to SamTrans, helping to address SamTrans’ challenge in paying its Caltrain operating bill.

For more on the Cap and Trade provisions and broader consequences, see this blog post from TransForm.