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Caltrain ponders tax increase to fund operations

Original post made on Jan 26, 2012

A year after barely avoiding draconian service cuts, Caltrain officials have several reasons to feel optimistic even as they continue to scramble for new funding sources to keep the trains running.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 26, 2012, 9:52 AM

Comments (27)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:02 am

A sales tax increase for Marin Co. is not the answer.

What we need is a gas tax for all the Bay Area counties to go towards all public transport.

We need one transportation authority to oversee all public transport by road, rail and ferry. We need to cut down on the number of administrators and consolidate expensive duplication of personnel and equipment. We need to consolidate ticketing and services to provide a sensible overall service in the Bay Area, not small competitive services which try to outdo each other rather than complement each other.

We need someone with some common sense to take over and improve service for all (including those who commute independently). We need to realise that public transport serves us all even if we do not choose to use it. We need someone to realise that this is a public service, not a profit making business.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

Sorry, I meant San Mateo county, not Marin county.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:33 am

Caltrain has such a big deficit, they can hire failed candidate for San Francisco Mayor, Bevan Dufty, as interim PR manager for $75/hour, or about $150,000/year. The previous incumbent was paid around $100,000/year. And they didn't interview anyone else for the job or post the job for applicants...

Pile on the sales taxes - for Caltrain, for Palo Alto city infrastructure repairs, etc... it's no wonder people shop on-line.

How about they raise the ticket prices?


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Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:52 am

Sales taxes are already maxed out, even more so if Gov. Brown's sales tax gets enacted.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2012 at 11:24 am

Cooper, agreed.

We can't just keep raising sales tax. When will sales tax be capped, 15%, 20%?

A flat tax on gas is a much better option.

Sales tax anomolies will only cause more people to shop online, shop out of area or drive to the neighboring city - particularly for big ticket items.

What we need to do is understand that public transport serves us all. As freeway drivers, we want less cars on our freeways so that we can get where we are going in an efficient amount of time. Poor public transport means more cars on the freeways as well as local streets.

For every commuter who is not served by public transport, it generally speaking puts one more car on the roads that we all use.

Even those of us who don't use cars or public transport to get to work, we still expect our dentists to be in their offices, our kids' school teachers to be in school on time and our fresh food to be delivered to our stores on a daily basis. We all benefit in so many ways from efficient public transport.

Putting a tax on gas means that we all pay the tax according to how much we travel and we can all choose how much we travel by choosing where we live in relation to where we work and where we go to spend our recreation. That is much better than raising sales tax when we can choose where we want to spend our money and how much we want to spend at any one time. The places that would benefit most from sales tax increases would be online and out of town shopping hubs like Gilroy (for example).

Putting up the cost of individual Caltrain tickets is the wrong way to go. Caltrain needs to encourage more people to use the trains but to use them at offpeak times when there are empty seats. Encouraging cheap tickets after 10.00 am, family tickets, group tickets, are all good ideas that other cities use. Promoting Caltrain for large concerts and other entertainment events should be considered. Free parking at Caltrain stations after 3.00 pm would encourage evening use.

Innovation is the real answer, not more of the same.


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Posted by psa188
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 26, 2012 at 11:28 am

Didn't Santa Clara county voters just raise sales taxes to pay for BART?
Why do we have to raise sales taxes again? The 2000 measure A sales tax was supposed to pay for these Caltrain-related projects:

# Improving Caltrain by double-tracking to Gilroy and electrifying from Palo Alto to Gilroy.
# Increasing the level of Caltrain service.

I will vote "NO" on any more sales tax increases. We need to get the projects that we're already paying taxes for.


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Posted by psa188
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 26, 2012 at 11:36 am

Resident says "Free parking at Caltrain stations after 3.00 pm would encourage evening use."

BART already does this:
Web Link
"Daily parking fees are required Monday through Friday from 4:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. BART customers using the disabled person parking spaces at stations with daily parking fees are required to pay the established parking fees at times when those fees are in effect."

Note that BART parking becomes free at 3:00 to encourage discretionary ridership. This is a good idea that Caltrain needs to consider before raising taxes.

Oh yes, I forgot to add that the 2000 Measure A sales tax we pay in Santa Clara County is also supposed to pay for "Funding operating and maintenance costs for increased bus, rail and paratransit services."

The problem is that the VTA Board diverted all the Measuse A money to BART and to get what we're already paying for vis-a-vis Caltrain the electeds are going to try to get us to raise taxes again. Vote "NO."


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Posted by Mark Simon
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

Regarding Bevan Dufty:
Here's what the San Mateo County Transit District, which manages Caltrain, actually did: We had a vacancy for community relations manager and some immediate critical work that needed to be done to communicate with the community about some construction work and continuing outreach with the bicycle community. That construction work included closing three major roadways in San Bruno. We couldn't wait to communicate to the people of that community -- the need was now. Because of continuing budget cuts and unfilled job vacancies, we didn't have the resources to do the work without someone on hand. We hired a person who has been out of office for more than a year, who worked as the mayor's director of neighborhood services for seven years and who had worked for the Los Angeles Transportation Commission, in addition to eight years on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. His credentials for this kind of work are unassailable and virtually unequaled. We hired him on an interim basis while we go through the process of recruiting a permanent replacement. That process will include a job posting, a full recruitment, testing and interviews. In the meantime, we hired someone who was a great fill-in -- on a temporary, part-time basis without benefits at $75 an hour. If you include his predecessor's benefits and salary, we are paying Mr. Dufty less. He ultimately will be here less than 90 days.
If you would preferred we do the full recruitment process, which we will do, we would have not had someone on hand at a crucial time in the schedule of a major construciton project. Instead, because of Mr. Dufty's work, a weekend of road closures resulted in not a single complaint from the residents, who were well informed.
Yes, we have a continuing, structural deficit. But the work we are doing -- including keeping a community informed about a major construction project -- does not stop.

Mark Simon
Executive Officer for Public Affairs
San Mateo County Transit District


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Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 26, 2012 at 12:08 pm

> Didn't Santa Clara county voters just raise sales taxes to pay for BART?

My first answer was: Yes, Measure B in 2008 raised sales tax 1/8% so VTA could fund BART.

But doing a quick web search to find the Measure I found that Santa Clara County has has raised sales tax a few times before to fund BART and most likely will have to again since Measure B doesn't quite fund it.

But that does not make a difference beyond the frustration that these projects often (always?) cost more than they are advertised as costing (HSR, Bay Bridge, Mitchel Park Library - these always come in way more expensive then when they started).

We need a good working Caltrain, and I support having a permanent source of funding. Personally I'd favor a gas tax over sales tax.

BART coming to Santa Clara County does not help us in Palo Alto - it will come from Freemont around through San Jose and stop at San Jose Airport. And if you're thinking let's just replace Caltrain with BART - you would not be alone but be prepared to pay a lot more for to fund that; never mind a huge construction project up and down the peninsula as the tracks have to be grade separated before the first BART train could stop here.



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Posted by Remember Measure A
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm

@psa188
Thanks for reminding us about Measure A. We were told in 2000 that those funds would support Caltrain and were shown detailed plans for a Caltrain route across the bay to Fremont if the measure passed. I voted for it enthusiastically. The funds were diverted to the BART extension. I'm not falling for it again.


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Posted by transportation taxes
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Most local highways are funded by county sales taxes. Why doesn't Caltrain automatically get a share of that money instead of having to create a new tax?


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm

interested readers may want to check out the Caltrain-HSR Compatibility Blog, here:

Web Link

While this blog (as the name suggests) is focused on how best to integrate Caltrain and high-speed rail (HSR), the very high-quality postings here (going back for years) -- along with many of the reader comments -- provide excellent technically- and operationally-well-informed and extremely well-researched insights into what's wrong with Caltrain completely apart from HSR.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Sales tax is a terrible way to finance transportation, especially mass transit. When the economy goes bad and you most need mass transit you find your source of funds drying up. VTA has found themselves in trouble several times because of this, but apparently a sales tax is seen as the easiest funding stream to get approved.


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Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm

They're also planning to divert solo-driver carpool lane tolls to BART. Why shouldn't Caltrain get some of those revenues?


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Posted by Will
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Is CalTrain is such dire straits that they need Kishimoto to stump for them in front of the city council?


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Posted by Thomas Paine IV
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 27, 2012 at 9:04 am

Cal Train exec's need higher pay. The exec. director currently struggles to make ends meet on a annual comp. package of $550,000 when adding in his various paychecks SAMTRANS, CALTRAIN etc. Yes, I'll vote for higher taxes because he is hurting.


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Posted by psa188
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 27, 2012 at 9:49 am

Frank says: "BART coming to Santa Clara County does not help us in Palo Alto - it will come from Freemont around through San Jose and stop at San Jose Airport. And if you're thinking let's just replace Caltrain with BART - you would not be alone but be prepared to pay a lot more for to fund that; never mind a huge construction project up and down the peninsula as the tracks have to be grade separated before the first BART train could stop here."

I'm not saying BART should replace Caltrain, exactly the opposite. I'm saying that some of the 2000 measure A revenue, which everyone in Santa Clara County generates, was supposed to go to Caltrain but was diverted to BART. Thus Caltrain comes back and proposes YET ANOTHER TAX. Vote "NO."


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:41 pm

An uneconomic train such as this should simply be shut down as a waste of funds (not to mention a public nuisance). If we need to control traffic on the highways, we should use congestion pricing.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Joseph

What a silly idea. If Caltrain were to close down and congestion pricing was on the highways, how would teachers, office workers, shop workers, restaurant workers, nurses, .... get to work? We can't all work flexi hours or go by bike!


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Resident - what percentage of office workers, shop workers, restaurant workers, and nurses use Caltrain today? for the 3 county area serviced by Caltrain, there are over 1.4 million workers, and we know there are about 20,000 Caltrain riders - so that's less than 2% of the workers.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Common Sense

I was talking about the congestion pricing that the poster above me had mentioned, not the shutting down of Caltrain.

If there was congestion pricing it would encourage people to use public transport, but if that was closed down, then my scenario would take place.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Resident, there are numerous solutions that would arise by natural means to solve the problem. There is nothing silly about it.

- people could use their cars.
- people without cars could buy used, cheap cars.
- people could use car sharing services.
- people could carpool to divide down car expenses as necessary.
- people could use privately provided bus or taxi services (government regulations restricting competition in this area in order to benefit cronies would likely have to be removed to make this affordable).

What is silly is pouring taxpayer wealth into a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy which provides horrible transit service value for the money.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Yes, Joseph, they should all drive cars like "normal people". After all, 101 at rush hour isn't that bad, is it?


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 29, 2012 at 8:10 am

Donald, traffic management is what congestion pricing is for.


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Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm

There is an inherant conflict in supporting public transit with a gasoline taax. Those who buy and use the gasoline and pay the tax to support public transit will no longer contribute to that support when they get out of their cars to use public transit. With fewer drivers buying gasoline, where does support for more heavily used transit come from? It seems to be a fact that transit will always need back-up funds in addition to fares.

Better that gas tax be used for cleaner air and other efforts that become unnecessary as the drivers depart their cars for public transit. And, inevitably, the drivers will catch on that their tax does not support services or mitigations for them and rebel against paying those taxes.


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Posted by Engineer Paco
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 29, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I understand how the folks want to cling to the 19th century and have a choo-choo train carry a declining number of people at taxpayer expense. Who cares that we have to pay the CalTrain CEO(?) $500,000+ a year to hold on to our childhood fantasies of times gone by. As long as somebody else pays for our ticket to maintain the illusion that somehow a service is being provided and our childhood dreams remain intact, who cares? Has there ever been a sales tax/fee that politicians have not liked?


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Posted by Ever ridden the train
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2012 at 7:52 pm

I have, it's pretty packed. Be a shame to lose all the tax payees that ride the train and force them into unemployment.

What transportation does not get subsidies. Even walking is subsidized.


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