Goals for Caltrain governance – workshop today, 3/19 1pm

Today, March 19 from 1-4:30pm, the Caltrain board is holding the first of four workshops addressing governance for the Caltrain service.  

You may remember that the governance debates kicked off a bumpy ride to get Measure RR on the ballot last year. The board decided to set a one-year timeline to make decisions in 2021, and then was able to reach agreement to put the measure on the ballot.

Here is the information to dial in, listen, and give public comment. Read on for more context. Then, call in to listen and give public comment if you have thoughts to share with the board today.

JPB Special Meeting – Governance  
Friday, March 19, 1:00pm
Access via Zoom 
Dial-in: (669) 900-6833
Webinar ID #944 0761 0660
Passcode: 541457

And let us know what you’re thinking in blog comments, or by email to friends@friendsofcaltrain.com

Governance to reach the business plan service goals – frequent, connected, equitable service

Caltrain started discussing governance as part of its business planning process. A 2019 report for the business plan, authored by Howard Permut, longtime CEO of MetroNorth, concluded that Caltrain was the best-performing rail service of its type in the US, but change would be needed in order to achieve the ambitious goals of the Business Plan service vision.  

In 2019/2020 the Caltrain board approved a business plan with goals to transform the 150-year old line to have frequent, all-day service that is well-connected with other local and regional transit, potentially increasing ridership by 3-4 times, and serves a more diverse customer base.  This will require a capital program to increase the capacity of the line and improve reliability, with passing areas, grade separations, an extension to downtown San Francisco, and major improvements at key hub stations in Redwood City and San Jose.

Today’s workshop is the first of four board workshops slated for 2021 (see timeline below). In this meeting, the Caltrain board will discuss the goals and priorities for the governance process.

Several important changes have already been made, based on board member direction from previous years:

  • Starting in April, Caltrain will have an executive director who works exclusively on Caltrain and reports to the Caltrain board (previously, the Caltrain executive director also served as the head of the SamTrans bus service and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority funding agency
  • Caltrain is bringing on a separate law firm and separate auditing firm from SamTrans

Now, there are a variety of questions to address including:

  • More questions about how executive management will be accountable to the board
  • Will SamTrans continue to provide shared management, or will this change, and to what?
  • Whether and how to address regional issues of connectivity and capital project planning and delivery

The business plan service vision includes a number goals that Caltrain can’t achieve on its own; weaving Caltrain service into an integrated network with local and regional transit; and an ambitious capital program with multiple interdependent parts.

There is increased attention to transit capital investments around the country this year, with the Biden Administration’s goals for federal transportation and infrastructure investments, raising the importance of regionally coordinated planning and cost-effective project delivery.  https://statescoop.com/buttigieg-says-u-s-has-once-in-a-generation-transportation-opportunity/

At the regional level, there are several initiatives going on this year regarding transit governance with the potential to achieve a more coordinated regional transit system, including a fare integration study; a Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force that is considering options for “network management” to achieve a more coordinated system; and a regional rail study.  

In 2019, Caltrain’s governance report suggested that these regional issues could be deferred to a later time.  This year, though, given the regional activities under way, several board members have expressed interest in playing an active role at the regional level. 

See this staff presentation with more on the questions that will come up at the workshop.