Tonight: Urge VTA to restore service ASAP, and don’t defund Caltrain maintenance

This evening, Thursday May 6 starting at 5:30pm, the VTA board is holding its last VTA Board Meeting before the final vote on the budget.  Read on for ways you can help get bus service restored and keep Caltrain service reliable in the coming year.

Restoring service / reducing passups

Because of social distancing, over 1000 bus riders are being passed up every day, which places a major burden on people trying to get to jobs, schools and other needs. While some other counties including San Francisco have relaxed their social distancing requirements on transit, Santa Clara County’s health department still requires 6 foot distancing. 

According to today’s staff report, VTA is not planning to restore service until early next calendar year. Meanwhile, while BART and Caltrain are planning to restore service in the August/September time frame to support anticipated returns to in-person school and office work.  

The rationale VTA staff are providing for continued passups and slow service restoration is lack of operators, but the union (ATU 265) has been proposing strategies to staff the service increase.   

Today, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission released draft principles for providing the most recent round of federal funding with $1.68billion for the Bay Area. MTC proposes to condition the federal funds on agencies reducing passups ASAP and restoring service in August/September.

Don’t defund Caltrain maintenance

Today, the Caltrain board discussed its budget for the coming year. Unfortunately, VTA and San Francisco (SFCTA) are proposing to eliminate contributions to the annual capital maintenance budget.  This covers expenses such as maintaining trains so they don’t break down, and replacing century-old bridges that are becoming safety hazards.    

Yesterday, the SamTrans board voted to contribute $5 million if the other counties agree to do so. At today’s board meeting directors Zmuda and Heminger from San Francisco expressed concern about the maintenance budget shortfall, as did Director Davis, who is an alternate on the VTA board. 

When Measure RR was being planned, the board members and partner agencies discussed using the ballot measure funds to pay for service, with continuing need for partner agency support for capital funding. For more on the maintenance defunding debate, please see this blog post

VTA’s budget reports show that it has nearly $135million remaining from the last round of federal relief founding, not even counting the upcoming relief funding – VTA can afford to make its Caltrain maintenance contribution.

Please call in to VTA tonight if you can

Please call during item 8.1a at the VTA board meeting and make a 1-minute public comment urging the VTA to restore service ASAP so that 1000+ riders aren’t left passed up/stranded; and to contribute to Caltrain’s capital maintenance budget (the buzzword is “state of good repair”) so that trains don’t break down and bridges are kept safe. 

Sign up to speak here and our allies at Turnout4Transit will send you all of the info and a text alert when the item is up (if you want one): https://tinyurl.com/VTA5621

The meeting starts at 5:30pm. If you can’t make the meeting, you can also contact the VTA Board members before the meeting. Please focus members representing the Caltrain corridor, including Chair Hendricks, and board members Simitian, Burt, Peralez and Jimenez.

Their contact information is available here: https://www.turnout4transit.org/contact-board-members

And if you’re in San Fransisco, stay tuned for more info on encouraging SFCTA to support Caltrain maintenance for safety and reliability.

Thanks for helping to get transit restored as more people are vaccinated and travelling.