It is hearing season in Sacramento, and several bills relevant to Caltrain funding have hearings scheduled this coming week. SB 557 is up for hearing on April 23. This bill nails down funding from the High Speed Rail appropriation for the Northern and Southern California bookends. A loophole in the law could enable money to be diverted to the Central Valley. This bill ensures the funding stays where it was allocated. The bill was developed in partnership with the state finance department, meaning that the ambiguity in the language is unnecessary and it’s reasonable to lock in the funding.
The bill has a second provision requiring concensus among the 9 MTC funding partners in order to expand capacity beyond the primarily 2-track blended system. (The partners are High Speed Rail, Caltrain, Transbay Joint Powers Authority, MTC, San Francisco County Transportation Authority, San Mateo County Transportation Authority, VTA, San Francisco, and San Jose.) At the last Caltrain Modernization Local Policy Maker Working Group, Caltrain board member Adrienne Tissier noted that capacity expansion funding would include local match, so the local partners would already need to agree, so this bill does not add much extra protection beyond what is already in place. This part of the bill seems to be raising more concerns, and given Tissier’s caveat may be less important.
Click here to urge the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee to approve the bill and keep funding for Caltrain electrification.
Also, a key program to fund Caltrain electrification, the Carl Moyer program, is being re-authorized by two bills, SB11 (Pavley, Rubio) and AB8 (Perea, Skinner). This program provides incentives to businesses and public agencies to replace or clean up old, dirty vehicles. Caltrain plans to use this program as part of its Electrification funding, and has used it in the past to fund projects reducing idling at Diridon.
AB8 (Perea, Skinner) is up for hearing on April 8 in Assembly Transportation. SB 8 is up for hearing at Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on April 9. It passed Environmental Quality on April 3.
Another transit funding bill on the table is Assembly Member Gordon’s AB416 creates a grant program for local greenhouse gas emissions projects, potentially including transit-related projects. It is being heard next in the Assembly Local Government Committee on April 10.
Also in Sacramento, the California Air Resources Board is deciding how to invest Cap and Trade auction revenues to support greenhouse gas emissions reductions. A campaign led by Transfom encouraged the use of the funds for public transit, access to transit, and affordable housing during a comment period that ended in March. The next step will be a hearing later this month. Stay tuned for opportunities to encourage Cap and Trade revenues to be spent on transit and increasing transit use.
Lastly, a local funding note: San Mateo County is seriously considering investing some of its new sales tax on SamTrans, which would help it keep buses running and keep its commitment to Caltrain. In an online forum, investing in public transit was in the top 3 voter recommendations, along with affordable housing and pedestrian and bike funding. The next step for the allocation of funds will be a series of hearings – the hearing for Transit, Bike and Pedestrian investments is scheduled for July 9. We’ll also post an update closer to the date.