Image courtesy Flickr user tkamenick
Caltrain is one of the most important transit systems in the Bay Area. With 32 stations in 19 cities and 40,000 passengers a day, it connects San Francisco and Silicon Valley and provides an armature for transit-oriented growth throughout the Peninsula and South Bay. Ridership has increased by 44 percent since 2004. We cannot imagine a sustainable region or a successful future Bay Area economy without a frequent and reliable Caltrain.
And yet, Caltrain’s future is uncertain. Unlike all other major transit systems in the Bay Area, Caltrain lacks a dedicated source of revenue. Also unique is its governance structure: a Joint Powers Board of agencies from the three counties Caltrain serves. In late 2010, Caltrain’s budget faced major shortfalls due to expected cuts in contributions from these agencies. This short-term crisis must be resolved with financial support from the three counties and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Once a stopgap plan is in place, it will be imperative to decide on a longer-term solution, which is SPUR’s focus.
This memorandum reviews the background on how we got into this fiscal and governance situation and begins a discussion about how to save Caltrain for the long run.