News - April 7, 2010

Caltrain deficit could force service cuts

Faced with a staggering deficit, Caltrain will consider cutting its service significantly in the next 15 months, spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew said March 31.

She said the agency is losing money due to a combination of factors, including the loss of $10 million in state funding for each of the past three years and declining ridership, which accounts for 40 percent of the agency's revenue.

"Caltrain never had a dedicated funding source," Ms. Bartholomew said. "We've been running on a deficit for quite some time, and now everything is coming to a head."

She said changes, which could include cutting midday, late night and weekend service, would take effect by June 2011. The service cuts could be handled in a number of ways and could be implemented in one sweep or gradually.

At a Caltrain board meeting March 31, members said they wanted to discuss the issue further before making any decisions. One member recommended creating a three-member subcommittee to explore options.

Caltrain has a $97 million annual budget and faces a $2.7 million deficit for the current fiscal year. The deficit could balloon to about $30 million, Ms. Bartholomew said.

She said Caltrain receives $40 million in annual funding from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and the San Mateo County Transit District, or SamTrans, which serves as the managing agency for Caltrain.

Funding from all three entities may be drastically reduced in the near future, she said.

"We all have the same problem," she said. "We're all losing money, and we're all just trying to figure out how to function."

Bay City News Service.


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