Caltrain receives $43 million from federal budget for electrification; may help defer fiscal cliff

The Federal omnibus spending bill included $43 million to help complete Caltrain electrification.  Additional funding is expected in early 2023 from the state’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), which has funding guidelines that favor projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are currently under construction.

The electrification funding may help defer the fiscal cliff that is looming sooner Caltrain than other Bay Area agencies as ridership grows back gradually from severe pandemic decline.   The closer Caltrain gets to receive full funding from federal and state sources to complete electrification, the more money will remain from local sources to contribute to service and regular maintenance and reduce the risk of cuts that impact riders.

The state TIRCP funding announcement is expected at the end of January. Caltrain is expected to hold a budget workshop after the electrification funding availability is known.   

As Caltrain works on a multi-year budget that extends to the era of electric service, there may be opportunities to make operating funding go further by running electric trains more efficiently.  See this blog post for ideas based on international practices.

These efficiencies would help but won’t fully bridge the fiscal cliff. Caltrain is working with BART, SFMTA, other agencies and MTC to pursue fiscal gap funding from state sources to bridge the fiscal cliff while working on regrowing ridership and laying the groundwork for regional funding.