Caltrain Dedicated Funding

Caltrain Funding Background

Caltrain is the seventh largest and most efficient commuter rail service in the nation. Unlike most transit agencies, Caltrain has no dedicated source of funding.

The lack of dedicated funding has existed since Caltrain’s inception. Caltrain relies on revenue from passenger fares (70% of operating budget) and on contributions from its Member Agencies: San Mateo County Transit District (SMCTD), Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and City & County of San Francisco (CCSF).

Each of the Member Agencies (a) contributes an equal amount of capital funding each year and (b) supplements operating funding based on the percentage of system ridership originating in each County. The levels of both capital and operating funding are determined by the funding capacity of the Member Agency with the least ability to provide its share of funding in any given year, and the amount that Member Agency can make available then becomes the standard against which the contributions of the other Member Agencies are calculated.

This approach fosters an uncertain financial and planning environment for Caltrain. In addition, operating, maintenance and repair costs continually rise. As a result, Caltrain has been unable to operate its service at levels consistent with demonstrated passenger demands, leading to on-board crowding in pre-pandemic times, with more of the same expected when ridership returns.

SB797 - Legislation Authorizing Dedicated Funding for Caltrain

In 2017, the Governor signed Senate Bill (S.B.) 797, introduced by Senator Jerry Hill, authorizing the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB - Caltrain Board) to implement a new retail transactions and use tax of up to 0.125% in the three Counties served by Caltrain, even if the new tax would exceed the 2% cap for sales taxes in any or all of the counties or the cities within the three Counties, if:

(i) the Board of Directors of the JPB adopts by a 2/3 vote a resolution submitting the measure to the voters

(ii) the measure is approved by the Boards of Supervisors in the Counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco

(iii) the measure is approved by the governing boards of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), SMCTD and VTA, and

(iv) the tax is adopted by a two-thirds vote of the three Counties' voters

Measure RR

RR Ballot Measure Text:

To preserve Caltrain service and support regional economic recovery, prevent traffic congestion, make Caltrain more affordable and accessible, reduce air pollution with cleaner and quieter electric trains, make travel times faster, and increase Caltrain frequency and capacity between Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties, shall the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board's resolution levying a 30-year one-eighth cent sales tax with oversight and audits, providing approximately $100 million annually for Caltrain that the State cannot take away, be adopted?

If approved by voters, the terms of Measure RR will require resulting funds to be prioritized:

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1. to support the operation of Caltrain service levels throughout the corridor from San Francisco to Gilroy, including, but not limited to, expanded service and increased capacity realized through the operation of an electrified system;

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2. to support the infrastructure, rolling stock, and capital projects necessary to advance the expansion of the Caltrain peak hour service from 5 trains per hour per direction to 8 trains per hour per direction, as well as the expansion of the Gilroy service to a minimum of five morning and five afternoon trains;

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3. to develop and implement programs to expand access to the Caltrain service and facilitate use of the system by passengers of all income levels, including establishing an affordability program with consideration of discounted passes and/or additional means-based fare discounts informed by Caltrain’s Means Based Fare Pilot Program;

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4. to help leverage other local, regional, state and federal investments to advance capital projects necessary to implement the Caltrain Business Plan’s 2040 Service Vision, adopted by the Caltrain Board on October 3, 2019, including, but are not limited to: the San Francisco Downtown Extension project including the Pennsylvania Avenue alignment, the extension of electrified train service to Gilroy, and grade separations throughout the Caltrain rail corridor; and

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5. to provide a steady stream of funding to support the annual operating, maintenance and capital needs of an electrified Caltrain service with increased frequency and capacity, which in turn will reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in the Counties.

Unanimous Approval from Seven Entities

  • April 1, 2020: San Mateo County Transit District Board of Directors - Resolution
  • May 5, 2020: San Mateo County Board of Supervisors - Resolution
  • August 4, 2020: Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors - Resolution
  • August 5, 2020: SFMTA Board of Directors - Resolution 
  • August 6, 2020: VTA Board of Directors - Resolution
  • August 6, 2020: JPB Board of Directors - Resolution
  • August 7, 2020: San Francisco Board of Supervisors - Resolution

Presentations / Actions at the Caltrain Board

  • August 6, 2020 Caltrain Board Action:
  • July 9, 2020: Caltrain Board update on public polling data - Presentation 
  • June 24, 2020: Caltrain WPLP Committee update on public polling data - Presentation 
  • March 5, 2020: Caltrain Board update on SB797 process and timeline - Presentation 
  • February 26, 2020: Caltrain WPLP Committee update on SB797 process and timeline - Presentation
  • December 5, 2019: Presentation on Special November 2019 Meeting Conclusions, including Confirmation on Need for Dedicated Funding - Presentation