Act now to keep San Francisco BOS from killing Caltrain

Last night, in a shocking surprise, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors quietly failed to advance their decision to allow a ballot funding measure to save Caltrain, which has been hard hit by the pandemic. The ballot measure could be dead and Caltrain could be shut down for years unless riders and voters act now and demand they reconsider.

President Yee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors still can save the day by advancing the Caltrain ballot measure with a supermajority vote by July 31.

Especially if you are a San Francisco resident, click here now to email your supervisor and Board President Norman Yee ( demanding that they allow the Caltrain ballot measure to go forward and let the voters decide. Say why you want to save Caltrain – you don’t want cars clogging SF streets, you support Caltrain’s goals of being more affordable for all people, you want to fight climate change – please add your own reasons. 

If you’re not a San Francisco resident but have friends, family and colleagues in SF, please forward this to them now and urge that they take action to save Caltrain.


Caltrain’s financial position is dire because it has never had dedicated funding in addition to fares. A shutdown is a real possibility with the Covid shelter-in-place and recession.  Before Covid, Caltrain carried four freeway lanes worth of cars, and those cars would be dumped back onto the highway and SF streets if the pandemic eases and Caltrain isn’t running.

Polling results on an ⅛ cent sales tax ballot measure were released a few weeks ago and results were surprisingly good – close to two thirds without messaging and 70% with positive messaging.. The poll was conducted in June in weeks 12-13 of Shelter in Place.

While Friends of Caltrain would prefer a revenue mechanism that is more progressive than the eighth cent sales tax authorized by SB797 in 2017, this is unfortunately the option that is on the table.

A sales tax is inequitable. But the Caltrain board is about to approve unprecedented commitments to equity and connectivity which would be implemented by the tax, with goals to improve the racial and income diversity of Caltrain’s ridership, by providing affordable access, with good local transit connections, serving the needs of people who are travelling for many purposes other than commuting to white collar jobs.

Another benefit for San Francisco transit is that the tax agreement is structured in a way that would remove the annual need to pay for Caltrain operations and maintenance from Muni’s books, leaving more money to run local transit service. Caltrain’s partners instead will contribute to capital projects e.g. for level boarding to improve accessibility and speed and increased capacity when that is needed in the future.

Representatives in San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties are calling for Caltrain to be separated from SamTrans which currently serves as its managing agency.  This could make sense – but it is in the middle of a recession – it makes no sense right now to hire a new CEO, CFO, head of HR, marketing, etc as the transit system bleeds money. There should be reorganizations that add efficiency, not more management. This will take more time to figure out than the end of this month.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors can still act to save Caltrain – make sure they hear from you.

Thank you for taking action!