SamTrans Votes to Preserve Opportunity for Caltrain Dedicated Funding

SamTrans Votes to Preserve Opportunity for Caltrain Dedicated Funding


At their April meeting, the San Mateo County Transit District (District) Board of Directors voted to authorize Caltrain to place a 1/8-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Construction of the infrastructure needed to operate new electric trains is currently underway. If passed, the measure would generate over $100 million per year to support the operation and expansion of electrified rail service that Caltrain needs to meet growing ridership demand throughout the corridor.

Senate Bill 797 allows Caltrain to place the measure on the ballot as long as transportation agencies and the Boards of Supervisors in Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo counties agree. The District is the first of these six agencies to approve a resolution authorizing the ballot measure and the remaining boards are expected to consider the same action over the next few months.  

Under a normal schedule, Caltrain operates 92 diesel trains per day. With this new investment, Caltrain would be able to begin the operation of electrified service in 2022 with 168 trains per day instead of the currently planned 116.

Last year, the Caltrain Board approved a 2040 Service Vision that would increase Caltrain service to at least eight trains per hour, per direction. The new investment would advance the expansion of Caltrain peak commute hour service to eight trains per hour per direction sooner, with expanded commute service hours, more off-peak service, and more service south of San Jose to Gilroy.

Currently, 17 of Caltrain’s 24 mainline stations are served by less than four trains per hour. Approval of new investments that advance Caltrain expanded service would provide 20 stations with four or more trains per hour, and 11 of them would be served by eight trains per hour. This additional service will allow Caltrain to provide 40,000 more daily commuters with a congestion-reducing travel alternative, the equivalent of taking two freeway lanes of traffic off the road, and reducing the number of miles that Peninsula travelers drive by 240 million miles per year.

Caltrain is the only transit service in the Bay Area without a dedicated source of funding. The system has still managed to grow to become the nation’s seventh largest commuter railroad and it is by far the nation’s most efficient commuter system, securing over 70% of its operating needs from fares under normal conditions.

In 2012, regional, state and federal decision makers recognized the importance of growing Caltrain service when they collaborated to invest $2 billion in the electrification of the system and the purchase of new electric trains.

“Providing Caltrain with a dedicated source of funding will finally allow the system to operate the fast, frequent, electrified service that our communities deserve,” said South San Francisco Councilmember Karyl Matsumoto, who chairs the District’s Board of Directors. “The impact on Caltrain service from the COVID-19 public health crisis is a wake-up call that shows how much more vulnerable Caltrain service is without dedicated funds to support its operation. Thankfully federal relief funds are keeping the system alive during this time, but it’s a reminder that when we come out of this crisis, the system will not be able to grow without dedicated investment.”


About SamTrans: SamTrans operates 70 routes throughout San Mateo County. Funded in part by a half-cent sales tax, the San Mateo County Transit District also provides administrative support for Caltrain and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. SamTrans has provided bus service to San Mateo County customers since 1976.

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Media Contact: Dan Lieberman, 650-508-6385