Caltrain and bridge toll funding bills pass legislature

As the legislative session wound to a close this week, the legislature passed two transportation funding measures.  SB797, the 3-county 1/8 percent sales tax to provide stable funding for Caltrain, sailed through both houses of the legislature.  SB595, the $3 bridge toll increase, had a rockier road, with extensive behind-the-scenes wrangling, before passing on Thursday, the second-to-last day of the session.  The measure kept key Caltrain network investments including Dumbarton, and added back $50Million to play for the next-generation Clipper system.

When will the Caltrain measure reach voters?

The big question for the Caltrain measure is when it would make its way onto voters’ ballots in San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties (it will require 2/3 voter approval to pass). San Francisco and San Mateo counties both are looking to put transportation measures on the ballot in 2018. With RM3 headed for the ballot as well, the June and November ballots will both have transportation measures, and the two counties are not eager for their local measures to compete for voters’ attention with a Caltrain measure.

The bill gives any of the three counties a veto, since it is written to require approval by two-thirds of the Caltrain board, plus approval by the boards of supervisors in each of the three counties, plus approval by Caltrain’s three partner transit agencies in San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties.

So it may take another election cycle for this measure to head to the ballot. In the meantime, partners will have a need to work together to stabilize Caltrain’s budget, or face continued cuts in maintenance, increases in fares, and potentially even service cuts.

Caltrain network investments, Clipper, and other RM3 wrangling

The RM3 package included a number of good Caltrain network investments, including $325 Million for the Downtown Extension connecting Caltrain to the Transbay terminal; $100Million for Diridon station in San Jose; $300Million for managed lane programs with the 101 corridor as an eligible investment; $50Million to advance design of a second Transbay crossing; and $140Million to implement shorter term recommendations of the Core Capacity study for Transbay travel.

 

In particular, the Dumbarton Corridor continued to be slated for $130 million.  The language for the Dumbarton package was helpfully generalized to cover projects that “include, but are not limited to projects recommended in the Dumbarton Corridor transportation study and improvements to facilitate connectivity among Altamont Corridor Express, Capitol Corridor, and BART.”    Earlier language was excessively specific, referring only to Dumbarton Rail (the study includes numerous good bus proposals as well) and to the proposal for a station at Shinn Road in Fremont, which is only one of the options for East Bay connections, an option that BART doesn’t currently support.

The package added back $50Million to fund the next-generation Clipper electronic payment system. Unfortunately, it did not include advocates recommendations for greater funding and direction to advance regional fare streamlining and equity.

One of the highlights of the package strongly favored by business backers was $300million to improve Transbay ferry service, improving capacity and system resilience to disruption.

bayferry

The RM3 expenditure plan, developed relatively quickly, since work on the measure was back-burnered as the legislature worked on the large SB1 statewide gas tax measure  was the subject of much intra-regional wrangling.

At the Metropolitan Transportation Commission discussion of the expenditure plan, the East Bay contingent voted against, with concerns that their residents would not see enough benefit.  Just this week,Assembly Member Tim Grayson, who represents parts of Contra Costa and Solano Counties, wrote an op-ed last week opposing the measure, even with a number of increases to the East Bay package, such as increasing funding for Contra Costa I680/SR4 interchange from $150Million to $210 million, and an increase from $50 to $100 million for Alameda County Rapid Bus projects, and more.  Watch for further signs of support or opposition from other leaders especially in the East Bay.

The measure requires a simple voter majority to pass.

In order for the Bay Area to take even more ambitious action to advance regional transportation investments, along the lines of the $120Billion measure passed by Los Angeles and $60Billion in Seattle in November, 2016 , the Bay Area would need to build a much more coherent vision of the goals and priorities for regional transportation.