Caltrain financial situation dire, shutdown presented as a possibility

At today’s Caltrain board meeting, the board members reviewed an ominous presentation about Caltrain’s financial situation in the Covid pandemic. Shockingly, without additional funding, system shutdown is a possibility that on a slide presented to the board.

Caltrain is receiving $49 million in federal CARES Act funding which will cover keeping the system open this fiscal year through June and several months into next fiscal year.

As the impact of the pandemic becomes clearer, the situation looks dire. Pre-pandemic, Caltrain got about 2/3 of its funding from riders, and most of the remainder from three county partners that are also facing budget disasters. With a still-circulating pandemic, Caltrain will need to maintain restrictions to allow social distancing on trains, and won’t be able to carry a full load of passengers – even 75% of the previous ridership level wouldn’t allow social distancing, and that would leave a $22 million budget hole.

If you are dismayed by the possibility of shutting down Caltrain, please contact your member of Congress – they are slated to start to consider the next round of federal stimulus funding as soon as tomorrow, Friday, May 8 – please click here to call or write to urge funding for public transit.

The grim financial picture puts the consideration of a November ballot measure in a different light. While a ballot measure during an epidemic and recession may seem daunting, we wonder whether voters – even with shaky household finances – would vote for a 1/8 cent sales tax if the other option was to shut Caltrain down and dump another 4 lanes worth of cars onto highway 101.

The Bay Area is predicted to face crippling traffic if workers head back to offices and don’t have available and safe public transit.