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Guest Opinions: Arguments for, against Caltrain's Measure RR

Original post made on Oct 16, 2020

Read guest opinions for and against Measure RR, a proposed eighth-cent sales tax in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties that would generate $108 million per year for Caltrain.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 16, 2020, 6:54 AM

Comments (13)

6 people like this
Posted by auggiesman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2020 at 11:25 am

auggiesman is a registered user.

It's interesting that the commenters are asked to be respectful and truthful in our postings, yet Mr. Brady can call Caltrain management "stupid" and sitting "fat and happy." Grade separations I believe are the responsibility of local governments. We need Caltrain, period. Our alternatives are exhausted - no more freeway expansion can happen, and returning to cars is not the answer. I've voted against other funding measures, but not funding Caltrain is short sighted.

34 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2020 at 11:41 am

Anne is a registered user.

I agree that we need Caltrain, but this regressive tax is a gift to Silicon Valley Leadership Group. I voted No.

43 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2020 at 12:21 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

I voted no too. We are being taxed left and right and everywhere, It is definitely irresponsible of Cal Train not to take cost cutting measures during the pandemic. It's like living above one's means and just ask for parents for handouts when money is running low.

28 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 16, 2020 at 1:05 pm

Common sense is a registered user.

I too am a fan and supporter of Caltrain and I too intend to vote AGAINST this measure.

Partly for reasons Michael Brady cited here (in times of financial stress and prioritization, you check how well an agency has handled past funding; the recent record doesn't build confidence that Caltrain would suddenly become lean and responsible if it had a new long-time guaranteed funding source). Partly because it's Yet Another Sales Tax Increment!!! (that alone might have made the difference for me). And partly because of living here a while and knowing the history. In another discussion, someone mentioned that this train line has operated since the 1860s (as if to say, therefore we MUST keep it well funded) -- whereas what that history really demonstrates is that Caltrain (under various names) has endured many changes, including some extremely lean times. Even in recent years it survived temporary funding crises. WHY ON EARTH not simply scale back operations, expenses, payroll during the pandemic, then expand service again once the fares return?

Because I really am a longtime Caltrain fan, I'm connected with some of the folks passionately arguing for Measure RR. They DO NOT examine the points I just mentioned. Instead they take as a premise that RR "must" be passed, and proceed entirely on that basis. Not good enough!

31 people like this
Posted by Casual Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2020 at 3:10 pm

Casual Observer is a registered user.

Mass transportation requires mass ridership. Mass ridership will never return because working from home is working. Empty trains will not reduce pollution. VOTE NO ON MEASURE RR.

3 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 16, 2020 at 3:12 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

It is a binary choice. Caltrain has cut back service. The people who operate the trains work for a private contractor. If it is shutdown and later re-opened, $155 million in restart costs is several years of the tax revenue. I disagree with some of Mr. Brady's word choices, I don't think they fit with "respectful and truthful" above. He is certainly entitled to his views about HSR, but without that money for electrification, Caltrain would likely be shutdown already. Sales taxes are regressive, but Silicon Valley has been using them for transportation funding since 1984.
I am looking forward to riding the new trains to both San Francisco and San Jose. I will vote yes.

41 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 16, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

There remain three existing sales taxes to support Caltrain, Measures A,B, and Prop K. There is no need for a new tax. Vote no.

20 people like this
Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 16, 2020 at 8:17 pm

Leslie York is a registered user.

If Caltrain is experiencing hard times with ridership down 90%, they should hit the "stop" button on their electrification project immediately. Have they done that or are they continuing to electrify the line during these trying times?

The trains ran just fine for decades on diesel. Electrification is all well and fine if you have the funds, which are hard to come by with ridership down 90%. It looks like they are trying to use the tax as a back-door way of continuing to fund electrification with fare-box revenue down.

Is a 30-year tax necessary? Chances are good that in 30 years the pandemic will be gone and ridership will be back up. Will the tax still be necessary then?

46 people like this
Posted by Thomas Paine
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 17, 2020 at 9:44 am

Thomas Paine is a registered user.

The rail fanatics have completely ignored the seminal shift in work/commute patterns introduced by the pandemic. Cal Train does not need to expand because ridership will never get back to pre-pandemic levels. Companies have discovered that working remotely is a viable option. The most probable outcome will be a blended work arrangement where employees spend 1-2 days per week in the office. And that office in many cases may will be a regional meeting/conference center in the Central Valley. That is already happening with major Silicon Valley employers opening satellite meeting facilities in the Sierra foothills. And by the way, the highly paid Cal Train riding techies who used to live in 900 sq. ft. apartments in SF are enjoying life in the suburbs in spacious homes with yards and good schools. Vote no on RR.

31 people like this
Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2020 at 2:47 pm

Leslie York is a registered user.

"ridership will never get back to pre-pandemic levels. Companies have discovered that working remotely is a viable option."

You might be right. In that case I imagine Caltrain will respond as it usually does: raise fares.

People have questioned the need for HSR due to telecommuting. So hold off on boring that insane 13-mile rail tunnel through Pacheco Pass (in close proximity to the San Andreas fault).

Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2020 at 2:48 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

The federal CARES Act emergency relief funding that has allowed Caltrain (and other transit agencies) to survive and continue providing “lifeline” service for lower-income and essential workers throughout the pandemic PROHIBITS job cuts ... so those federally-imposed conditions are why Caltrain has literally been unable to make workforce cuts.

As anyone who follows Caltrain board meetings also knows, when CARES Act funding is anticipated to run out, Caltrain intends to make whatever workforce adjustments make sense at that time.

Like for all US transit operators, nothing in Caltrain’s history comes even remotely close to the existential funding crisis it now faces ... and unlike most all transit operators, it has never enjoyed any dedicated funding source(s), relying instead on ridership revenue for ~70% and on voluntary annual contributions from the respective “partner” transit agencies (VTA, SamTrans & Muni) of the 3 counties it serves for the balance of its operating budget ... making it the nation’s highest-performing rail transit agency for decades.

Oh, and the fully-funded $2 billion system electrification project replacing the entire fleet with state-of-the-art, high-performance, sleek, renewable electricity powered Stadler (Swiss) trains is now well over halfway complete, and will allow for level boarding and better-than-BART service in our post-COVID future.

(Visit to see the new trains being built in a new US Stadler train factory in SLC, Utah, in compliance with “Buy America” rules.)

The SB797-authorized 1/8¢ sales tax was conceived of years ago (i.e. pre-COVID) to facilitate a long-overdue stable funding source to permit realization of that service vision. Due to the unforeseen pandemic, if passed, it will initially now serve as a survival lifeline until we slowly transition into the post COVID-19 pandemic era.

12 people like this
Posted by Leslie York
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 23, 2020 at 5:47 am

Leslie York is a registered user.

First, get your semantics right. Don't mislead the public.

1/8 CENT equals $0.00125 no matter the amount.

1/8 PERcent equals $12.50 on $10,000. Big difference. It's how Elizabeth Warren used to misrepresent her "wealth tax". Any graduate of Palo Alto schools knows what a PERcentage is.

Below is a summary of how the revenue would be spent:

Web Link

8 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2020 at 3:52 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

No on RR. Use existing sales taxes. Make cuts. The cost of living is too high to pay more taxes to benefit union workers and affluent riders.

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