Caltrain tax rebate for transit agencies would leave little for service improvements

At last week’s Planning Committee, and this week’s Board meeting, Caltrain board members discuss whether a potential Caltrain tax should fund service and capacity improvements, or whether it should be dedicated toward rebating the three County partners for their current contributions to Caltrain. 

Currently, Caltrain generates about 70% of its revenue from riders and the remaining 30% from San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara County transit agencies. 

Information presented to board committee meeting indicated that the “partner rebate” version of a Caltrain tax would leave very little for capacity improvements to provide better service (see chart below)

For service levels above the baseline, the “partner rebate” version would provide only $10 million per year over and above basic operations and maintenance toward a $1 billion capital investment needed to enable increased capacity and higher quality, more frequent and reliable service. (The capital investments would cover platform changes for level boarding, more train cars, and other improvements needed for better service).

The “better service” version would generate $60M per year toward the $1B price tag for capital improvements needed for better service, which would go much further toward those improvements, combined with other sources of regional/state/federal funding.

What do you think? Would voters approve new taxes to rebate the existing transit agencies without contributing notably to the major service improvements outlined in Caltrain’s Business Plan Service Vision?