The ballot measure to provide dedicated funding for Caltrain will be on the ballot as Measure RR.
The Caltrain service is an essential component of the Bay Area’s regional rapid transit network and should have stable funding to be able to continue through Covid and deliver the more frequent service envisioned in the Caltrain business plan service vision, with better all-day, all-week service for commuting and many other types of trips, and better connections with other local and regional services.
Stable funding and surviving Covid
Since the line was taken over from the state, Caltrain has never had dedicated funding. The bulk of its funding has come from fares, with the remaining public funding from three county partner transit agencies making voluntary contributions. The lack of dedicated funding has resulted in periodic financial crises, which is no way to run an essential part of the region’s transportation network.
Caltrain’s financial position is dire. A shutdown is a real possibility. Before Covid Caltrain carried four freeway lanes worth of cars, and those cars would be dumped back on to the highways and streets if the pandemic eases and Caltrain isn’t running. Improvements funded by the tax would remove an additional two lanes of car traffic off highways.
Caltrain riders expect to return after the pandemic eases, according to multiple surveys of individuals and employers. Caltrain’s polling showed that 70% of frequent Caltrain riders plan to use Caltrain as much or more than before once the pandemic is over.
More equitable access
While Friends of Caltrain would prefer a revenue mechanism that is more progressive than the eighth cent sales tax authorized by SB797, this is unfortunately the option that is on the table. If a measure were being discussed in the legislature now we would be encouraging a more progressive source.
A sales tax is inequitable. However, the Caltrain board is about to approve unprecedented policies supporting equity and connectivity. These policies would be implemented and funded 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 equity benefit is that the tax agreement is structured in a way that would remove the annual need to pay for Caltrain operations and maintenance from the books of VTA and SFMTA, leaving more money to run local service. The 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.
Housing and environment
Continuing and improving Caltrain service is essential for housing. Plans for housing on the Peninsula corridor from San Francisco through San Jose would be at great risk if Caltrain’s future was uncertain. Having ongoing and improved public transit is critical to enable people to thrive with less driving.
Continuing and growing Caltrain ridership is essential to meet environmental goals. Pre-Covid, Caltrain removed 400 million driving miles per year from the roads. This would grow by about 240 million with improvements funded by the tax, removing 110 additional metric tons of carbon emissions each day.
Polling results were released in late June and results were surprisingly good – close to two thirds support without messaging and 70% with positive messaging. The results also decline to the 50s with negative messaging. The poll was conducted in June in weeks 12-13 of Shelter in Place.
How you can help
For these reasons, we encourage you to support Measure RR, and to encourage others to support Measure RR. Click here to show your commitment and get more information on how to help.
If you are a member of a group that is interested in Measure RR and would like a presentation, or would like to help, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org