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Elected officials release statement calling for voters to decide Caltrain funding

Supporters say sales tax would keep transit agency in operation

Caltrain, which has seen ridership drop by 95% since the COVID-19 pandemic began, is looking to present voters with a sales tax the agency says would help maintain its transit services. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

A joint statement issued by seven elected officials calls for letting voters decide on funding for the Caltrain service between the South Bay and San Francisco.

The statement — released Sunday by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier and U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, State Sen. Jerry Hill, Assemblymen Kevin Mullin and Marc Berman, San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine and Belmont Vice Mayor Charles Stone — responds to resistance last week by San Francisco supervisors to putting a sales tax measure on the ballot.

Caltrain has seen ridership drop steeply during the COVID-19 pandemic and there are fears that its financial struggles could halt the service.

Supporters have pinned their hopes of bolstering Caltrain on a dedicated sales tax assessed in San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

"For almost a year, negotiations have been aimed at helping riders by getting Caltrain firmly funded," the statement says. "It has no source of its own money, the farebox only brings in 70 percent of its operating costs coupled with annual operating costs from the three member counties, and year to year the riders are at risk of the line shutting down. Now, at one minute to midnight, the train is really in danger of not showing up at the station."

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San Mateo County supervisors and the San Mateo County Transit District, or SamTrans, which operates Caltrain for the Peninsula Joint Powers Board, have approved putting the measure on November ballots in the region. But the boards of supervisors in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties and the leaders of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority also must agree.

Supervisor Shamann Walton, who is San Francisco's representative on the Joint Powers Board, said Wednesday the fact that Caltrain is operated by SamTrans presents a problem.

"(That) means San Francisco voters and San Francisco leadership don't actually make decisions as to what happens with the funds," Walton said. "But yet we pay millions of dollars to the railroad each year. This inequitable relationship has to change."

The sales tax was initially proposed to fund the electrification of Caltrain, but the agency now needs the funding to keep operating. It said its weekday average ridership, at 65,000 before the pandemic, has dropped by 95 percent during the health emergency.

"While it's wildly popular, Caltrain could shut down without its own funding," the officials say in their statement. "To prevent this, the legislature passed a statute to allow the public to decide.

"The statute requires that, if the ballot measure passes, the tax money go to Caltrain."

The statement concludes, "All of us need to keep riders first and foremost in our minds. It's really quite simple. A clean deal is what the riders and public deserve. Let the voters decide."

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Elected officials release statement calling for voters to decide Caltrain funding

Supporters say sales tax would keep transit agency in operation

by /

Uploaded: Tue, Jul 21, 2020, 9:21 am

A joint statement issued by seven elected officials calls for letting voters decide on funding for the Caltrain service between the South Bay and San Francisco.

The statement — released Sunday by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier and U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, State Sen. Jerry Hill, Assemblymen Kevin Mullin and Marc Berman, San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine and Belmont Vice Mayor Charles Stone — responds to resistance last week by San Francisco supervisors to putting a sales tax measure on the ballot.

Caltrain has seen ridership drop steeply during the COVID-19 pandemic and there are fears that its financial struggles could halt the service.

Supporters have pinned their hopes of bolstering Caltrain on a dedicated sales tax assessed in San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

"For almost a year, negotiations have been aimed at helping riders by getting Caltrain firmly funded," the statement says. "It has no source of its own money, the farebox only brings in 70 percent of its operating costs coupled with annual operating costs from the three member counties, and year to year the riders are at risk of the line shutting down. Now, at one minute to midnight, the train is really in danger of not showing up at the station."

San Mateo County supervisors and the San Mateo County Transit District, or SamTrans, which operates Caltrain for the Peninsula Joint Powers Board, have approved putting the measure on November ballots in the region. But the boards of supervisors in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties and the leaders of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority also must agree.

Supervisor Shamann Walton, who is San Francisco's representative on the Joint Powers Board, said Wednesday the fact that Caltrain is operated by SamTrans presents a problem.

"(That) means San Francisco voters and San Francisco leadership don't actually make decisions as to what happens with the funds," Walton said. "But yet we pay millions of dollars to the railroad each year. This inequitable relationship has to change."

The sales tax was initially proposed to fund the electrification of Caltrain, but the agency now needs the funding to keep operating. It said its weekday average ridership, at 65,000 before the pandemic, has dropped by 95 percent during the health emergency.

"While it's wildly popular, Caltrain could shut down without its own funding," the officials say in their statement. "To prevent this, the legislature passed a statute to allow the public to decide.

"The statute requires that, if the ballot measure passes, the tax money go to Caltrain."

The statement concludes, "All of us need to keep riders first and foremost in our minds. It's really quite simple. A clean deal is what the riders and public deserve. Let the voters decide."

Comments

Enough
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:04 am
Enough, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:04 am
22 people like this

A sales Tax to support CalTrain, seriously. We already pay one of the highest Sales Taxes in the State (9.250%) and we also pay $0.822 in Federal and State taxes per gallon of gasoline. Add in the amounts people pay in other state taxes and the Schools asking for more parcel taxes it seems none of the agencies/boards/special districts will be happy until they are getting 100% of the money we earn. CalTrain should get their funding from existing taxes or figure out a way to balance their budget without more money. If they can not get it from ridership maybe they shouldn't be spending so much to upgrade their system


MP homeowner
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 1:32 pm
MP homeowner, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 1:32 pm
11 people like this

Caltrain is a treasured regional transportation resource. It is the most cost effective method of mass transit we have in the Bay Area. We must support Caltrain in the ultimate electrification and continued operation through this crisis and consider the long term. In addition, this supports lower income residents, reduces traffic congestion and lowers carbon emissions. A small sales tax impact is the fairest way to spread the expense through our counties and obtain the needed funds for the long term vision of transportation in our area.


Enough
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 21, 2020 at 2:52 pm
Enough, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 21, 2020 at 2:52 pm
4 people like this

"It is the most cost effective method of mass transit we have in the Bay Area" Obviously it is not that effective. Frankly I think we are paying enough taxes (Sales Taxes, Gas Taxes, special taxes, etc.). If CalTrain can not get their funding from existing sources or from their ridership then they need to cut back service. When do we put our foot down on more taxes?


Robert
another community
on Jul 21, 2020 at 4:13 pm
Robert, another community
on Jul 21, 2020 at 4:13 pm
8 people like this

Remember what the freeways looked like before the pandemic. Now imagine them after we're all going back to work, but five times worse if Caltrain isn't around to take pressure off the roadways. Too many people are driving to work 1 person per car, people refuse to (or can't) carpool. For those complaining about parcel taxes, that was the voters fault when they voted to reduce the votes needed to pass from 66% to 51%. Now, a concerted effort by a small minority of voters can shove through a parcel tax no problem.


Steve Walter
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 5:51 pm
Steve Walter, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 21, 2020 at 5:51 pm
8 people like this

My opinion is that we can't let our infrastructure fail due to the pandemic. During WWII our parents & grandparents held bond drives, raised food in "Victory Gardens" and collected old tires & paper - all to keep support the war effort. Everyone (and I do mean practically everyone) tightened their belts and contributed to the common good and the future of our country.
CalTrain is an integral part of our transit infrastructure and we'll be a poorer community in the future if it is allowed to fail. Now is the time prove that being a good citizen is more than waving our flag on the 4th of July - it sometimes means making real sacrifices. If in this case it means a financial sacrifice, consider it small change compared to the physical and emotional sacrifices of previous generations who went to war, were injured and died to preserve the future of the country.
That said, I do wish the article had given an estimate of what the added tax would be to help us all know what kind of sacrifice is being asked of us.


Menlo Voter.
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 21, 2020 at 8:22 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
on Jul 21, 2020 at 8:22 pm
2 people like this

Robert:

because of the pandemic there has been a paradigm shift. Far fewer will be commuting to work. They'll be working remotely. There will be far less traffic than there was pre-pandemic because they won't need to.


Allen
another community
on Jul 21, 2020 at 9:26 pm
Allen, another community
on Jul 21, 2020 at 9:26 pm
23 people like this

Why is it that whenever government (local, regional, national) needs funds for some "critical" or "urgent" priority, that they always seek funding from taxes, levies, or fees? When do they ever ask: what can we cut or reduce from our existing programs in order to meet the funding needs of the new crisis?


Menlo Voter.
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 22, 2020 at 8:45 am
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
on Jul 22, 2020 at 8:45 am
18 people like this

Allen:

They never ask what can we cut because they don't have to. They keep asking for more because the sheep keeping approving it when they ask for it. If people would wake up and say NO, they would be forced to look at things to cut. I'm not holding my breath.


pearl
another community
on Jul 22, 2020 at 1:14 pm
pearl, another community
on Jul 22, 2020 at 1:14 pm
6 people like this

If there's no CalTrain, how will people without cars who have to work at their office, get from Gilroy and the Peninsula to their jobs in San Francisco?


new guy
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 22, 2020 at 3:17 pm
new guy, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 22, 2020 at 3:17 pm
4 people like this

Hey Pearl,

Answer: same way they get to the Gilroy station.

Just watched 4 trains pass Menlo Park with at best 2 people on each. Stop this madness now.


Mike
Atherton: other
on Jul 23, 2020 at 12:48 pm
Mike, Atherton: other
on Jul 23, 2020 at 12:48 pm
2 people like this

To those of you who believe, and most commenters above seem to, that HSR is a catastrophic waste of money, I would ask that you support CC-HSR. I have.


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