By Sue Dremann
Drastic cuts to Caltrain rail service are likely to be averted, Steve Heminger, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's executive director, told the commission's Planning and Allocations Committee Wednesday (March 9).
The commission is working with Caltrain's financing partners -- Santa Clara County's VTA, San Mateo County's SamTrans and San Francisco's Muni -- to cobble together a financing deal that would help the 147-year-old rail line avoid a $30 million operations deficit starting July 2.
Caltrain officials have warned that they would slash the number of trains, reduce the schedule to weekday peak-commuter times only, and close up to seven stations along the San Jose to San Francisco route.
Service to points south of San Jose's Diridon station would be eliminated, cutting off residents from Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin, if all of the proposed cuts are implemented.
But Heminger said fare and parking increases, changes to its upcoming expiring contract with Amtrak and potentially using some money reserved for Caltrain electrification might be options for a temporary fix. He also outlined a plan for VTA and Muni to pay $8.9 million in reimbursement funds the agencies owe SamTrans for fronting the purchase of the rail's right-of-way in 1991.
"We're close to putting together a near-term, two-year plan to avert some of the deep service cuts proposed," Randy Rentschler, the commission's spokesman, said.
But "there are going to be some cuts -- no two ways about it," he said. The decision about which cuts will be made is up to the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which manages Caltrain, he added.
Rentschler said he could not specify how the funding deal will work out.
"We have a list of possibilities we're looking at but we don't have a prioritized list," he said.