Regional deal may help Caltrain avert cuts

Metropolitan Transportation Commission working with partners on financing deal

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.

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Posted by Trialballoon?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I guess they wanted to test the waters on passing a sales tax as a dedicated source of funding. Once they realized it was unlikely to pass, they backed down on the threatened cuts and worked something out.

Like this comment
Posted by who cares
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 11, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Only the government could run a business this way. I guess Mr. Scanlon saves his $400,000 a year job.

Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2011 at 11:42 pm

To "who cares" -- I grant that government can do better, and often private business DOES do better. However I have two objections to your assertion that "only" government can run a "business" this way.

First, business can do a good job running business badly as we've seen with the recent mortgage crisis. Also, there plenty of other examples to cite: Web Link

In way, all of that is besides the point, because overall I agree with you that businesses with their profit motive and competition against other businesses are simply organized better to be more efficient than government.

But to my thinking, businesses and governments serve very different purposes, so we really shouldn't be comparing them as though one can be freely substituted for the other. The following is a thoughtful discussion of that issue:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2011 at 8:10 am

The point is that Caltrain should not be run as a business but as a service.

Most businesses are aiming to not only make a profit, but make a huge profit for its owners. A service aims to serve its customers, improve its service to attract more customers, and any profits incurred should be ploughed back in to the service for the good of the customers.

Like this comment
Posted by who cares
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm

The point is CalTrain is neither run as a business or a service but as a travesty. As a business they fail to make a profit but only deplete taxpayers money into a bottomless pit, as a service they "plough" money into management salaries providing no payback to infrastructure or increasing service to taxpayers. Expecting and demanding less and asserting that business and government are different serves only to provide a poor excuse for government ineptness.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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