Voters supportive of dedicated Caltrain tax for better service

On Friday February 28, KCBS radio reported the results of a poll on a potential 3-county ballot measure to support stable funding for Caltrain. The poll showed that 68% of voters in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties supported an 1/8 cent sales tax for Caltrain funding.

The tax had been authorized by the legislature passing SB797 back in 2017, and would need to be put on the ballot by the Caltrain board and its county partners, and would require a 2/3 vote of the public.

The measure would raise about $100 Million per year. There is a live debate among the Caltrain board about whether part of the funding should go to rebate Caltrain’s partners, VTA, SamTrans, and San Francisco, for the money they currently contribute to Caltrain, or whether the funding should pay for improvement to enable capacity increases and more frequent, reliable service.

The poll results announced on the radio indicated that voters had been asked about whether they wanted the money spent on improvements allowing better service and grade separations. We don’t know whether there were polling questions that asked about the option in which the money would be used to rebate Caltrain’s partners instead.

The poll was apparently funded by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which has long supported a dedicated funding measure for Caltrain. Carl Guardino, the outgoing CEO, was interviewed by the radio report on the poll.

The fact that SVLG conducted the poll implies that the Leadership Group, like Caltrain itself, is hedging its bets about whether a larger regional transportation funding measure will be able to go on the ballot in November. A report to the SamTrans board last month showed that the regional measure was facing headwinds at the legislature in Sacramento, where it would need a 2/3 vote of the legislature to be approved before going on the ballot in November.