Caltrain 3-county governance agreement almost but not quite done

At this morning’s board meeting, the Caltrain board will work on the finishing touches of the agreement to strengthen the 3-county governance of the agency.  This process was a condition for getting Measure RR on the ballot in 2020. The board had opened to reach agreement by the end of 2021, and a broad agreement has been put together, but a few open questions remain.

The board will discuss an agreement that will: 

  • Structure the agency to be more clearly accountable to the Caltrain board
    • Make permanent the role of a standalone executive director reporting to the Caltrain board.
    • Establish a set of senior employees working exclusively on rail who will report to the executive director
    • Manage shared services provided by SamTrans with an explicit service agreement in areas including HR, IT, marketing and accounting
  • Maintain SamTrans as the formal managing agency, with all employees paid by SamTrans
  • Repay SamTrans for its purchase of the right of way within 12 months, with $19.6 million from MTC and .2 million by City and Count of San Francisco

Several items are not quite finalized

There are several points in the agreement that are not quite finalized, and will require discussion at the board meeting

  • How many votes to hire and fire the executive director?  The staff report includes two choices: a simple majority, and a supermajority of seven members of the JPB. 
  • An additional payment to SamTrans.  SamTrans is seeking additional payment considering the amount of time since the repayment agreement in 2008.  That amount hasn’t yet been agreed to.  The staff report recommends a Caltrain board subcommittee to negotiate the amount. 
  • Prompt evaluation of any regional governance options. There are several regional governance discussions in the works, and an option calls for the Caltrain board to evaluate options by January 2023

With all of the the important opportunities and challenges in 2022, to recover ridership, address the budget challenges created by the pandemic, complete electrification, plan grade separations, work on more seamless service integration, and participate in regional governance, we hope that the Caltrain board resolves the remaining issues in order to focus on running the service.