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October 22, 2020



Measure RR has passed. Here's part of the Chron article:

Caltrain, hemorrhaging money during the pandemic, won its bid for a temporary lifeline and long-term financial future with the support of voters in three counties for a sales tax raise.

Voters in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties approved Measure RR with 70% voting for and 30% against. The measure required approval from two-thirds of voters.
And this is interesting:

The Committee to Save Caltrain raised $2.3 million as of two weeks before the election from a mix of unions, advocacy groups, companies and individuals, with $100,000 from Google and $300,000 from Facebook. Pine gave a personal loan of $500,000 on Oct. 19 to fund TV ads while pledged donations came in, he said. The campaign’s budget is $2.5 million.


Handle Bard

This is pretty funny. The climate warriors and the transit warriors are at war with each other. I had not heard the 60% telecommuting demand but the transit guys see an oncoming headlight. Todays Daily Journal has A proposed regional mandate for large companies and businesses toward having 60% of employees work from home is being revised after pushback from state representatives, local officials and regional transportation agencies over the last few weeks.

Since a meeting in September when staff from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, or MTC, unveiled the mandate as part of the Plan Bay Area 2050 first Blueprint draft, they have had discussions with businesses, Caltrain and elected officials. MTC staff are working on solutions to provide further flexibility for employees while still meeting state greenhouse gas emission targets. MTC is now considering an alternative option to provide more of a cafeteria-style approach for each employer to choose a suite of commute trip reduction options, rather than relying solely on telecommuting.


There is a very pointed LTTE in today's Daily Post:

Dear Editor: This could only happen in California. A heavily-subsidized railroad sees a drop to nearly zero ridership and a crushing revenue shortfall. With only tax dollars flowing in, the railroad makes a token reduction in service.

Then, one of the railroad's board members loans a half-million dollars of his personal money to the campaign to hoodwink the voters into paying yet more taxes to fund his sinking ship!

Who do these people think they are fooling? Caltrain is a corrupt agency that needs to be abolished! Furlough every single employee and especially all of the administrators. Put the assets under new management, strictly to allow the continuation of capital projects. Take delivery of the new rolling stock and put it in storage. Sell off the existing rolling stock to provide maintenance revenue, and then, and only when the time is right, resume operations with a fully upgraded railroad.

What is currently happening with Caltrain is nothing less than criminal in nature.

Greg David
Mountain View

I don't know Mr. David, but he appears to have some operational experience with asset intensive businesses. A bit left out is the new rolling stock is the electric stock while the old is the diesel stock that has to be disposed of regardless.

Handle Bard

There was chatter this week about Caltrain and BART getting closer maybe with a new agency. Neither of these are managed well now. Tying them together is like handing extra weights to the albatross around your neck.


I agree with Mark Simon's opinion piece conclusion in today's DJ although I get there using different reasoning. Simon states:

They are about to break Caltrain. And for no good reason. They are the egocentric, city-centric members of the Caltrain board of directors from San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. They are determined to restructure how Caltrain is managed....

Caltrain is recognized throughout the transportation industry as an outstanding system (Source, please). Its growth in ridership before the pandemic demonstrated that it was good for its customers (Least bad choice? 101 congestion? Over-building generates more riders?). And the recent voter approval of a permanent funding source solved Caltrain’s one long-standing problem.(Ha! If the public were so supportive then why blow wads of Dave Pine's cash getting it passed? https://www.newsbreak.com/california/santa-clara/news/2090450542884/county-supervisor-dave-pine-lends-500000-of-his-own-money-to-caltrain-tax-campaign)

ANOTHER BONEHEAD IDEA: In the midst of this phony governance debate, Caltrain board member Steve Heminger has twice proposed a merger between BART and Caltrain.

(It's not a different idea, it's the raison d'etre for the first idea. BART has been stymied in bringing it's lousy service to the Peninsula for decades. This is just the latest maneuver to do it behind the scenes instead of in the sunshine). Kudos to Simon for calling them out.



The Feds to the rescue--don't be fooled, it's all our money:

Caltrain and SamTrans will receive around $56 million total in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for COVID-19 financial assistance following MTC allocation approval, although the train agency is hoping for more.

MTC is distributing the ARP funding in multiple portions to help operators in the near term and to let it gauge the recovery process for future funding. MTC’s adopted principles state that allocation distribution should be used to ensure financial stability, restore and reimagine service, advance equity and ensure transit is safe, reliable, affordable and easy to use for riders.

Caltrain and SamTrans spokesperson Dan Lieberman said starting Aug. 30, Caltrain will be running more trains than ever before while also cutting fare costs by 50%. (That is the old "make it up on volume" fallacy).


Paloma Ave

Can't beat going all in on 1830's technology!


The housing drumbeat goes on up in SF. Nevermind that it trails every city in the nation for downtown business recovery because it also trails the nation in office workers returning to the office. But so be it. On the same day as another big "Get Ready for More Drought" article in the very same Comicle, we learn that Big Housing has its eyes on the Fourth and Townsend property:

Nearly a decade after the late Mayor Ed Lee floated the idea, Caltrain and property owner Prologis are working with renewed vigor on a plan for one of San Francisco’s most alluring and complicated development sites: the 20 acres of Caltrain rail yards that straddle the South of Market and Mission Bay.

Among the questions have been: Could the Caltrain tracks be underground there as part of the downtown rail extension that will eventually bring both Caltrain and high-speed rail to San Francisco’s Transbay transit center? Could Caltrain relocate its rail storage yards to a less dense area to the south in order to free up land for housing and other public uses?
"the south" -- that means us, we're really good for storing trains--that's really how the Big City people think about us.


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