News

Caltrain unveils less-drastic-than-projected cuts

Tentative financial agreement could minimize service reductions

Caltrain has released a tentative financial plan that would preserve much of the commuter rail's train service while cutting 12 trains and three stations, according to a Tuesday press release.

Executive staff from Caltrain's three member agencies -- Santa Clara County's Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), San Mateo County's SamTrans and San Francisco's Metropolitan Transit Agency -- and the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission reached an agreement Monday night (April 4) on a tentative financial plan.

If approved, it would significantly reduce the agency's projected fiscal-year 2012 operating deficit.

The new proposal would allow considerably more service than an earlier proposal that would have gutted the rail line.

Caltrain staff is recommending that the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which oversees Caltrain, authorize a 76-train weekday schedule beginning in July 2011. Currently, there are 86 trains running during the week.

The proposed schedule is a 60 percent increase in weekday train frequency over a worst-case scenario that would have cut trains from 96 to 48. The agency faces a $30 million operating deficit on a $100 million budget.

The 76-train schedule would maintain the current early-morning, midday and late-evening weekday service hours and would continue service between Gilroy and San Francisco. The weekend schedule would continue but would modify weekend and special-event service, including to baseball games.

Weekend service at Palo Alto's California Avenue station would be suspended.

The original service-reduction proposal would have shuttered up to 16 stations. But the 76-train schedule would require suspension of weekday service at only three: Bayshore, Hayward Park and Capitol, according to the press release.

"The 76-train proposal is a significant improvement over the worst-case scenario, and there is a lot to like in the new schedule. It actually provides more service to some stations than they have now, and it preserves the competitive travel times our customers have come to expect from Caltrain," Caltrain Executive Director Michael J. Scanlon said.

He also emphasized that any solution to the Caltrain fiscal crisis is temporary.

"This is an emergency, short-term fix and it does not address the core financial issues that continue to threaten Caltrain service," Scanlon said.

"Caltrain needs a permanent, dedicated source of revenue. Without that, the fiscal crisis we faced this year will only get worse and the future of the rail system will continue to be in doubt."

The tentative funding agreement involves augmenting Caltrain's operating budget through swapping state and regional capital funds and through funds that VTA will pay to SamTrans for the initial purchase of the Caltrain right of way in 1991.

The new schedule reduces net operating costs by approximately $3.3 million and includes a staff recommendation to generate more than $2 million through a fare increase and an increase in parking fees.

Scanlon cautioned that the agreement would only cover the coming fiscal year but added that the parties will continue to negotiate through the summer in hopes of reaching agreement this fall on how to address Caltrain budget shortfalls in fiscal year 2013.

"In addition, the service plan should be revisited as circumstances change. For instance, there are a number of transit-oriented development projects that if implemented could create higher demand and warrant service restoration," Scanlon said.

The Caltrain partners and MTC also are working closely with community coalitions to address the long-term funding of the rail system, which does not have a permanent, dedicated source of revenue.

These efforts have been supported by the Friends of Caltrain, a grassroots organization, and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which has made Caltrain's fiscal crisis its primary focus.

The new weekend schedule would provide faster trip times for customers and also preserves the full span of the service day, but will require suspension of service at some stations to reflect necessary savings in operating costs, according to Caltrain. Previously, all service except for peak commuter times would have been cut.

Under the new proposal, weekend service would be suspended at 11 stations: 22nd Street, Bayshore, South San Francisco, Broadway, Hayward Park, Belmont, San Carlos, Atherton, California Avenue, San Antonio and Lawrence. The weekend shuttle between the Tamien station and Diridon station would also be suspended.

Yoriko Kishimoto, former Palo Alto mayor who is spearheading Friends of Caltrain, a grassroots organization that is seeking to save the train service and find a dedicated source of funding, said she hopes the board will hold off on making a decision on Thursday morning.

"I think it is important, since this just came out that they give the public a chance to digest it. I would agree to call a special meeting. It may be what everyone ends up with, but it's still a significant reduction," she said.

The proposed train schedule can be viewed here.

The proposed fare increases are available at the Caltrain website.

The Joint Powers Board will discuss the new proposal at its monthly meeting on Thursday (April 7) at 10 a.m. at SamTrans headquarters, 250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Caltrans
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Caltrain and all other public transit systems should be getting a dedicated portion of the state and country transportation budgets, instead of having to play these games every year.


Like this comment
Posted by Martin
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 5, 2011 at 10:43 pm

What a shame. A dedicated M-F commute system, could have given us a better commute service, and quiet weekends. This is what compromise brings us ... scattered ruins.


Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 5:22 am

Permanent funding source = fares from ridership tickets

or they should ask why Google, Yahoo and other companies have set up their own private bus systems rather than use Caltrain.


Like this comment
Posted by Antonio Napolero
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:38 am

You gotta be kidding. After all that crying wolf, they only cut 10 trains!
They keep the empty late night train and early morning trains running.
They still have way too much money!


Like this comment
Posted by Antonio Napolero
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:41 am

Let's start gathering momentum and public support for a NO vote on the Caltrain tax in 2012.


Like this comment
Posted by Caltrans
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 6, 2011 at 9:48 am

Let's start gathering momentum and public support to make highways pay for themselves. Start charging tolls on major roads.


Like this comment
Posted by Jean Coyne
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:08 am

If the train doesn't stop at Atherton during the week and doesn't stop at Atherton on the weekend, doesn't that mean the AthertonA station will be closed?


Like this comment
Posted by south Palo Alto losing more transit
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2011 at 11:10 am

Now that they have approved hundreds of very high density (transit-oriented" housing units near the San Antonio train station, they are further cutting back the San Antonio service, as has been the trend for YEARS.

Just great. City Council, are you watching this? Summerhill is about to tell you that their 525 San Antonio project is transit-oriented.

I give Caltrain two years before they close the San Antonio station completely. Aaaargh.


Like this comment
Posted by David Bloom
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

"south Palo Alto losing more transit":
Although it is unfortunate that San Antonio station will be closed on weekends, it does look like it will be getting much more frequent commute-hour service in the new schedule. This could be useful for single-car families that TODs target. It's not very good for households that don't have any car, though...


Like this comment
Posted by David Bloom
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Although it also looks like San Antonio will be losing southbound AM/northbound PM service. (Some of these commuters might be able to go north one stop then transfer to a southbound train, although that wastes a lot of time)


Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Apr 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

@ Jean Coyne, who asked:
If the train doesn't stop at Atherton during the week and doesn't stop at Atherton on the weekend, doesn't that mean the AthertonA station will be closed?

Yes, that's my understanding, along with Broadway, Burl. However, they still show up (blank) on the weekend schedule, along with Cal' Av and all the other stations without service on the weekend.

The main salvation for this year, assuming the board accepts the plan as do the individual agency boards, was: "The tentative funding agreement involves augmenting Caltrain's operating budget through swapping state and regional capital funds and through funds that VTA will pay to SamTrans for the initial purchase of the Caltrain right of way in 1991."
To elaborate, VTA is paying $7.1 M to Samtrans that they owed them for the purchase of the Caltrain line from SP in 1991 - the actual amount that Samtrans is owed is over $45 M though - so I 'think' that VTA still owes Samtrans the difference. Samtrans is using VTA's repayment to augment its Caltrain contribution - and that additional contribution means the other two agencies, VTA and Muni, increase theirs accordingly.
Yes, it's complicated!
What it shows is that a 'joint powers authority' is a delicate marriage of agencies - only accountable to themselves, very unlike a single agency, like BART or the individual agencies that comprise Caltrain.
I think Caltrain is counting on a tax for the 3 counties that will be put to a vote of the people.
While I support that effort, I will push that the Joint Powers Board be replaced with an agency that is directly accountable to the taxpayers, not accountable to Samtrans, VTA, and Muni.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I suspect that this was the aimed for list of cutbacks from the beginning and the original cutbacks were just a red herring.

This article says nothing about doing away with Baby Bullets which are one of the better services, simply not a good idea.

But, where are innovative ideas for gaining more ridership. I see no mention of advertising, promotions, special rates for off peak ridership, family fares, in fact anything that would attract more people to use Caltrain.

Instead of continual reduction in service, Caltrain must attract more ridership - not just commuters, but all of us for our occasional business and social needs. Being successful means being competitive against other options including the family car.


Like this comment
Posted by DZ
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Apr 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm

People lies all the time to get what they want. Caltrain get away this time by crying lies, but "you cannot fool all the people all the time".
Caltrain will die, that is called social progress.


Like this comment
Posted by Antonio
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Caltrain, the ugly beast that won't die!


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

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