SamTrans board unanimously supports Nov 18 transpo tax with 60% transit

Last week, the SamTrans board unanimously voted to approve a new 1/2 percent sales tax for transportation, including 60% for transit; of which 50% would be for SamTrans, Caltrain, and other core programs, and 10% for regional projects, notably Dumbarton.

This important measure will enable service improvements and avoid service cuts – if voters turn out and support in November.


Keeping the lights on for Caltrain grade sep planning
The expenditure plan includes 12.5% for local roadways with a 2.5% setaside for Caltrain grade separations.  This does not go very far toward paying for project delivery, but does enable San Mateo County cities to continue to advance planning and design, to be in a position to have shovel-ready projects when there are additional sources of funding.
Highway spending – more people with fewer cars
The expenditure plan includes 22.5% for highway congestion relief. This was more than coalition of advocates for sustainable and equitable transportation, including Friends of Caltrain, were asking for, and less than a business alliance was asking for.
Regarding the highway and roadway spending, one advantage with this ballot measure is that the funding in these categories can be used to pay for transportation demand management programs to relieve congestion on those roads without adding vehicle capacity and attracting more drivers and traffic.
The expenditure plan includes 5% for bicycle and pedestrian projects. This is less than what the TEAMC coalition including the bicycle coalition were asking for, but an improvement over the 3% in the previous ballot measure.
And, in a big improvement for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure – all of the roadway categories including highways, local roads, and Caltrain grade separations will need to follow “complete streets” policies, which was not the case before in San Mateo County. In particular, the measure will allow the budget for a highway project, such as an interchange, to cover the cost of a bicycle/pedestrian bridge, even the design analysis recommends that the safest way to accommodate biking/walking is with a standalone adjacent bike/ped bridge (see the illustration of the bike/ped bridge near Ralston in Belmont).
Previously in San Mateo County, if the interchange had the bike/ped features built in, as in the Willow/101 project in Menlo Park, the project could be paid for out of the highway project budget.  But if a separate bridge was needed, as in the case of the Holly/101 interchange in San Carlos, the bike/ped bridge needed to be paid for out of the much smaller bike/pedestrian pot of funding, crowding out many other smaller projects.
The next step will be a “concurrence” vote by the San Mateo County board of supervisors on June 24; the measure is being put on the ballot jointly by SamTrans and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.
Thanks to everyone who participated and shared your thoughts with SamTrans and the Board of Supervisors – your feedback helped shaped a better transportation measure.
The next step will be working with voters to get the measure passed — and importantly, to help get out the vote to defend the SB1 gas tax, which is paying for the next major expansion in Caltrain capacity.