News

Legislation introduced to allow Caltrain sales tax

Senate Bill 979 seeks to place measure on ballot to support agency's capital, operating costs

State legislation introduced Wednesday would allow Caltrain to seek voter approval for a new sales tax to help cover capital and operating costs.

Senate Bill 797, introduced by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, along with several other Bay Area senators and Assembly members, would authorize the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which runs Caltrain, to place a one-eighth-cent sales tax on the ballot in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

The measure could only be placed on the ballot once the joint powers board gives it two-thirds approval. The boards of supervisors for San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and transportation authorities in the three counties would also have to approve it.

Caltrain currently runs on voluntary contributions from the three counties participating in the joint powers authority, and is the only passenger rail service in the U.S. to be financed in that manner.

SB 797 is intended to end fluctuations in those contributions and establish a reliable funding source, according to Sen. Hill.

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Caltrain, which carries commuters between Gilroy and San Francisco, is currently operating over capacity and needs funding to meet demands for increased service, he said.

"Our region is an economic powerhouse for our state, but its continued growth is jeopardized if our residents cannot get back and forth to work, school and their families because our main transportation corridor cannot accommodate them," Sen. Hill said.

The legislation was introduced with the backing of Peninsula business groups including the San Mateo County Economic Development Association and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

"Highway 101 has become so congested that we've changed its name to the 101 Parking Lot," Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino said. "This bill would enable voters to dramatically increase Caltrain's ridership capacity, which would be transformative in the congested 101 corridor."

The text of the bill can be found at sd13.senate.ca.gov.

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Legislation introduced to allow Caltrain sales tax

Senate Bill 979 seeks to place measure on ballot to support agency's capital, operating costs

Uploaded: Thu, Jun 22, 2017, 12:07 am

State legislation introduced Wednesday would allow Caltrain to seek voter approval for a new sales tax to help cover capital and operating costs.

Senate Bill 797, introduced by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, along with several other Bay Area senators and Assembly members, would authorize the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which runs Caltrain, to place a one-eighth-cent sales tax on the ballot in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

The measure could only be placed on the ballot once the joint powers board gives it two-thirds approval. The boards of supervisors for San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and transportation authorities in the three counties would also have to approve it.

Caltrain currently runs on voluntary contributions from the three counties participating in the joint powers authority, and is the only passenger rail service in the U.S. to be financed in that manner.

SB 797 is intended to end fluctuations in those contributions and establish a reliable funding source, according to Sen. Hill.

Caltrain, which carries commuters between Gilroy and San Francisco, is currently operating over capacity and needs funding to meet demands for increased service, he said.

"Our region is an economic powerhouse for our state, but its continued growth is jeopardized if our residents cannot get back and forth to work, school and their families because our main transportation corridor cannot accommodate them," Sen. Hill said.

The legislation was introduced with the backing of Peninsula business groups including the San Mateo County Economic Development Association and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

"Highway 101 has become so congested that we've changed its name to the 101 Parking Lot," Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino said. "This bill would enable voters to dramatically increase Caltrain's ridership capacity, which would be transformative in the congested 101 corridor."

The text of the bill can be found at sd13.senate.ca.gov.

— Bay City News Service

Comments

Martha
Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 22, 2017 at 8:56 am
Martha, Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 22, 2017 at 8:56 am

It is about time for this, it is crazy that Caltrain has no reliable funding source.


enough, already
another community
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:23 am
enough, already, another community
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:23 am

Are you effing kidding me? enough with the tax increases already. State taxes, local taxes, they always go up. Vote NO.

Let Carl, Mike and the rich silicon valley types cough up this time.


whatever
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:50 am
whatever, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:50 am

Let the tech giants pay the tax. They and their workers reap the benefits of CalTrain. And they're the reason housing etc is so expensive.


whatever
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:53 am
whatever, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2017 at 9:53 am

Martha, CalTrain does have a funding source. It's called the ridership.


MASS TRANSIT
Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:50 am
MASS TRANSIT, Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 22, 2017 at 11:50 am

Vote YES. Get more cars off the road!

And if you can figure a way to pin more taxes on corporations for even more improvements, go for it.

>>Let the tech giants pay the tax


been there
Atherton: other
on Jun 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm
been there , Atherton: other
on Jun 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm

More taxes.
Why are they trying to fix something that isn't broken?
With electrification coming this is not the right time to burden the taxpayers.
The whole economics of Caltrain will change.
Tax and Spend, Tax and Spend. Is there no end?


Martin
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm
Martin, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Can we just change the law to say that SF, SamTrans and VTA MUST fund Caltrain to the tune of $50 million total? Otherwise, this is really just a stealth tax for other transit agencies.

Caltrain already shared administrative office with SamTrans, so this might force Caltrain to pay for its own admins raising the total overhead for taxpayers.


Maryann
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:18 pm
Maryann, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:18 pm

do people ever stop and pause before voting "yes" on increasing the Sales Tax? Californians are taxed to death and it just continues with just a little "increase" on the Sales Tax? I say enough is enough.


Stan
Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:49 pm
Stan, Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Jun 22, 2017 at 1:49 pm

The users should pay this burden not those of us who cannot use the service because there is no reliable parking at Cal Train stations and to use a bus to get to a station would require significant time and cost to any trip since buses don't service my part of the county.
If the tax, more tax and still more tax bureaucrats simply can't survive without more money to play with how about having an office space tax?
How much would 1 cent per sqft per year generate? This would be an inconsequential expense to small offices and businesses and charge the large employers for the benefit they receive.
Supposed leaders like Carl Guardino and Jerry Hill should think more creatively about putting the burden where the benefit is!


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 23, 2017 at 2:11 am
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 23, 2017 at 2:11 am

Why don't they raise the ticket price so that the people using the train are paying the cost? I must be missing something here. If the ticket price would have to be raised to a price too high for most people to afford, that is an indication that Caltrain shouldn't really exist at all.


Reality Check
another community
on Jun 23, 2017 at 3:32 am
Reality Check, another community
on Jun 23, 2017 at 3:32 am

Why don't they raise gas taxes so that the motorists using the roads are paying the cost? I must be missing something here. If the gas tax would have to be raised too high for most motorists to afford, that is an indication that roads shouldn't really exist at all.

On a more serious note, like BART, Caltrain enjoys among the highest farebox recovery ratios of any commuter or transit rail system in the US. Unlike BART, Caltrain has never has a predictable and dedicated funding source (eg a dedicated tax or toll, or portion thereof, of any kind) since its inception. Every fiscal year, it relies on each of the 3 partner agencies (SF MTA (aka Muni), SamTrans and SCCo. VTA) to voluntarily cough up their meager fair share of the relatively small annual operating shortfall (subsidy), proportional to its share of average weekday AM boardings in each of the agencies' respective counties. What's even worse is that out of a perverse, yet understandable, sense of "fairness," any year one partner agency cries poor mouth (or whatever) and pays something less than its aforementioned share, the other two agecies dial back their contribution by the same proportion, thereby TRIPLING the effect on the resulting budget gap and forcing bad and hard choices such as big surprise fare increases, service cuts and deferred maintenance (which leads to more in-service breakdowns and resultant delays, eroding schedule reliability, ridership and therefore fare revenue).

So yeah, a dedicated Caltrain funding source for operating the spiffy new high-performance electric train fleet now on order at BART-like frequencies is long overdue and something the traffic-choked Caltrain corridor through the heart of Silicon Valley needs and deserves. Whether it should be an inherently regressive sales or gas tax, or a property tax, or a business/payroll tax is a good question. Politically, sales taxes are typically the easiest and most popular way to go ... but purists can make great arguments for why it should be one or more of the others.


Carl G
another community
on Jun 23, 2017 at 8:06 am
Carl G, another community
on Jun 23, 2017 at 8:06 am

"The legislation was introduced with the backing of Peninsula business groups including the San Mateo County Economic Development Association and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group."

Because our fat cat companies don't want to pay for it.


peninsula resident
Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jun 23, 2017 at 10:23 am
peninsula resident, Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jun 23, 2017 at 10:23 am

"So yeah, a dedicated Caltrain funding source for [Caltrain] is long overdue"

Few people dispute this. The issue is that taxpayers are demanding that existing taxation be used for funding. The agencies that already donate to Caltrain Funding clearly don't need that money anyways; just make that contribution Caltrain's permanent funding. Problem solved.

Problem solved. We don't need yet another tax! Good gawd, our sales taxes are already 10%, and clearly climbing.


historyguy
Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Jun 23, 2017 at 1:27 pm
historyguy, Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Jun 23, 2017 at 1:27 pm

I was just waiting for the usual suspect to whine about "increased taxes." And sure enough, the second posting "from another community (?)" provided the typical complaint: no more taxes! One-eight of a cent? How much are you willing to pay to get more traffic off our overloaded roads and provide a first-class train system from Gilroy to SF? So for a $24 dinner, your many supporters are going to run amok in the streets because your bill went up THREE CENTS? Many folks don't even bother to pick up pennies off the street. If you want better streets, schools, transportation, you have to pay for them. A sales tax is actually regressive and hits poor folks harder than those with money (of which there are a lot around here), but at least there is an attempt to do something to stabilize our train system, which can be even better and is a real asset to anyone living on the peninsula.


Ahem
another community
on Jun 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm
Ahem, another community
on Jun 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm

@historyguy,

Caltrain's ability to take cars off the road has been exaggerated. Only 30,000 people, or less than 1% of the Peninsula's population of +3,000,000, are regular weekday users of Caltrain.

The US Department of Transportation breaks down car use as follows:

45% of daily trips are taken for shopping and errands.
27% of daily trips are social and recreational, such as visiting a friend.
15% of daily trips are taken for commuting (to work).

Caltrain only really replaces the the %15 commuting fraction of car use. Caltrain users are still doing 85% if their travel by car, bus, or bike. So, on a typical weekday Caltrain only takes the equivalent of about 4,500 people or ~0.15% of the peninsula's population off of the roads.

Caltrain doesn't even replace the whole commute, since thousands of people drive, shuttle, or pedal to and from the train station.


MASS TRANSIT
Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 23, 2017 at 4:24 pm
MASS TRANSIT, Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 23, 2017 at 4:24 pm

"Caltrain only really replaces the the %15 commuting fraction of car use."

See: Twain, Mark.




peninsula resident
Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jun 24, 2017 at 5:58 pm
peninsula resident, Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jun 24, 2017 at 5:58 pm

"How much are you willing to pay to get more traffic off our overloaded roads and provide a first-class train system from Gilroy to SF?"

[Part removed.]

This proposal doesn't do that for the "train system from Gilroy to SF"; it will have NO IMPACT on Caltrain's actual funding levels. CalTrain funding will NOT GO UP with this proposal. Every dollar increase in sales-tax based funding will result in a dollar-for-dollar decrease in funding from the 3 counties mentioned in the article. It's very naive to think otherwise.


new guy
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 25, 2017 at 7:37 am
new guy, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 25, 2017 at 7:37 am

This is the current latest local and state government MO, "dedicated taxes". Get the public to vote for minor increases in taxes everywhere for things that people actually want. But, what the people voting for these things don't get is that we already were supposed to be paying for these things with the current tax monies. Once we have all these dedicated taxes for things we really want, what does the previous tax monies that are continuing to be taken used for? Are we getting what we paid for?


Rich
Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jun 25, 2017 at 3:24 pm
Rich, Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jun 25, 2017 at 3:24 pm

All these huge new buildings up and down the peninsula - we must have more infrastructure.

Vote yes for public transportation and improve the productivity of our people and our companies. And for a better quality of life for all.


Buncha Brady
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2017 at 5:23 pm
Buncha Brady, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2017 at 5:23 pm

More public transportation!!!!!


Favorite Will D.
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 26, 2017 at 8:08 pm
Favorite Will D. , Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 26, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Caltrain limits GreenHouse Gases (GHGs) and keeps cars off the road- sign me up! If anyone's going to get mad about wasteful subsidies, how about the gas tax that hasn't remotely kept pace with inflation? Disregard the Silicon Valley Libertarian crowd that thinks government is always the wrong answer. They've got a lot of time for message board commenting, but people trying to get to work need Caltrain!


Bob
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 27, 2017 at 7:17 am
Bob, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 27, 2017 at 7:17 am

It's interesting that most government entities don't plan for financial growth and establish reserves. The solution, therefore, is to tax.

However, as others may recall, we were taxed to fix our roadways. Somehow those funds were "redirected" to other state needs. Now Jerry Brown wants to tax us again to fix our roadways with the assurance that next year there will be a bill to keep that money for roadways. But the tax starts this November.

Don't even get me started on school funding......every year one of them asks for more.

At what point do we say no to they way government does business, especially in CA? It's the process that needs to be changed.


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