Caltrain 2015 operating funding challenges – how you can help

At the June Caltrain board meeting, executive director Mike Scanlon laid out the picture for Caltrain’s finances, which is, in his words, schizophrenic.

One the one hand, ridership is at an all time high, and “farebox recovery” – the amount of revenue from riders – is at an all time high. Popular rush hour trains are standing room only, and Caltrain is working on a plan to add a sixth train car on the baby bullet trains to handle the load.   Caltrain electrification is moving forward, and is expected to reduce the public operating funding needed by 50% starting in 2019.

On the other hand, the one-time sources of revenue that have used to balance the budget for the last 3 years have run out, and Caltrain faces another financial crisis next budget season unless something changes.

Here are several ways you can help:

The San Mateo County Supervisors are considering how to spend a sales tax increase approved by voters last November. SamTrans is asking for funding, and this could enable SamTrans to meet its commitment to Caltrain. The Supervisors are holding a hearing on July 9  update: July 23. If you live or work in San Mateo County sign this petition and save the date to come if you can.

  • Revenue from carbon trading has been identified as a source for transit funding by the California Air Resources Board.  This transportation funding will start in 2015, and could help address Caltrain’s funding gap. Unfortunately, the governor Jerry Brown recently took $500 million in Cap and Trade revenue as a loan to balance the state budget in 2014.   Transform has been leading campaigns to ensure that the state dedicates the funds to greenhouse gas reductions; click here to sign up for alerts from Transform with actions you can take on this issue.

  • San Francisco is considering a ballot measure in 2014 to help keep commitments to Muni, Caltrain, and other transportation needs. If you live in San Francisco, watch for news.

  • Funding for the Peninsula’s transit backbone should not be a rollercoaster.  There will be more work this year on potential ballot measures and/or other structural changes to give Caltrain stable funding. Stay tuned.