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Sales tax would be 'game changer' for pandemic-hit Caltrain, board chair says

Original post made on Sep 2, 2020

With few riders and ongoing tensions over its governance, Caltrain is asking voters to approve an eighth-cent sales tax measure in November. What does it mean for Caltrain's future?

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 2, 2020, 2:57 PM

Comments (16)

Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 2, 2020 at 8:10 pm

Gary is a registered user.

No one takes the train and shouldn't with this virus and the threat of thousands more. But then how can the employees and contractors involved get public funds? Tax. Not just to cover existing salaries, benefits and pensions but 2 or 3 times more money because MONEY GROWS ON TREES. How much does the top dog at Caltrain get paid? Anybody out there know?


Posted by Rossta
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 3, 2020 at 3:36 pm

Rossta is a registered user.

Caltrain is great! I think public transit is very important to our community.
A sales tax is the worst possible way to fund it - regressive tax.
Shame on the board for taking this path to do the wrong thing for the right reason.
The end does not justify the means.
Vote no.


Posted by Otto_Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 3, 2020 at 3:48 pm

Otto_Maddox is a registered user.

Sorry.. they're down 95% of ridership but still running 70 trains?! That makes zero sense.

If you only have 5% of your riders you should only be running 5% of your trains. That's 4 trains.. which I'll admit probably isn't worth doing.

Again.. sorry but if Caltrain were a private business they'd be shutdown. Instead they're asking for a tax increase which they then want to use as collateral to BORROW money.

30 YEARS they're talking about. Statistically a lot of us will be dead before that money is paid back.. if ever.

It's time to just say NO.


Posted by Tal Shaya
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2020 at 6:18 am

Tal Shaya is a registered user.

A business must support itself, or it's a charity. Public transit doesn't work in the Bay Area because it takes hours to get anywhere and is very expensive. I live 35 minutes from AT&T Park but on public transit, it's a four hour round trip. Public transpo takes longer and costs more, which is why no one uses it.


Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 4, 2020 at 12:27 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

So when the pandemic is over, and we are all tired of working from home (which I am already) what will replace three rush hour lanes on 101 if Caltrain has folded. Folded would mean brand new electric rolling stock sold before ever being used. Caltrain has made SF Giants baseball feasible for Peninsula fans for 20 years now. I know the games are in an empty park this year, but that won't go on forever either. Folks here frequently wonder about BART, that decision was made (wrongly) by our political leaders in the 1960's. Deciding to close Caltrain would be the same type of decision, but this time rendered by the voters.


Posted by Otto_Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 4, 2020 at 8:56 pm

Otto_Maddox is a registered user.

I seriously question the "3 rush hour lanes" statement. Please share your source if you have one.

I have a great idea though.

How about shutting down the "train to nowhere" aka "California High Speed Rail" and using some of that money to keep CalTrain afloat?

Why are we talking about "folding"? Just shut down until the service makes sense again. I'm sure the brand new electric trains are in storage right now. They can sit a little longer.

How about the SF Giants (worth roughly $3 billion) helping keep the trains running? Sounds like they benefit quite a bit from it as well.

Raising my taxes for 30 years? No thanks.


Posted by Justin Case
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:16 am

Justin Case is a registered user.

Not to worry...the initiative will get voted down unless there are other widespread miracles on the immediate horizon.

Miracles include: complete cessation of the Covid-19 pandemic, mass economic recovery, and a significant decline in various street protests.

And ALL miracles must take place BEFORE November 3rd.


Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:30 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

A rush hour freeway holds fewer than 3,000 cars per hour. A single 7 car electric trainset holds well over 1,000 passengers. If nobody ever works in SF again, we'll never need Caltrain. I'm betting neither Otto or I will be here in 30 years. Since there are no fans watching baseball, the Giants don't have much of the normal operating revenue they have used to provide various kinds of support to Caltrain in the past. Since a contract operator runs the trains, to save money we'd have to terminate the contract. The trains are not in storage yet, who would pay to store them? High Speed Rail has already been stopped. Some of their money is paying to electrify Caltrain, work that is already under contract and would be expensive to terminate.


Posted by Justin Case
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2020 at 9:14 am

Justin Case is a registered user.

> "I live 35 minutes from AT&T Park but on public transit, it's a four hour round trip."

^ That is because Caltrain makes scheduled stops to pick-up additional Giants fans along the way. Are you advocating an 'express train' that runs directly from PA to AT&T Park exclusively for Palo Alto based fans?

> "Caltrain has made SF Giants baseball feasible for Peninsula fans for 20 years now. I know the games are in an empty park this year, but that won't go on forever either."

^ If the Giants continue to play poorly, fewer ticket holders will be hopping on Caltrain during game days...problem partially solved.


Posted by Otto_Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 8, 2020 at 7:24 am

Otto_Maddox is a registered user.

"would be expensive to terminate"

Is that the new version of "too big to fail"?

Please share the source for the train vs. traffic estimates.

And High Speed Rail has not been stopped. There is a government "authority" using tax dollars to build train tracks in the middle of nowhere.

That money could be used to keep Caltrain afloat through the Covid crisis.

That should be on the November ballot instead of a 30 YEAR tax increase.


Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 8, 2020 at 8:50 am

Old Steve is a registered user.

Mr. Maddox, I don't believe in wasting time stringing links together on the web. The construction of HSR in the southern central valley is under contract. As I explained before, such contracts contain expensive termination clauses. Those encumbered funds are state controlled and Caltrain has no access to them. You can find the capacity of the new Caltrain trainsets easily on their Cal Mod website. As for the freeway lanes, I've practiced highway engineering in the Bay Area for forty years, so I am confident of that figure, but have no idea where to link it for you given the state of Caltrans' public facing websites.


Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 8, 2020 at 9:03 am

Gary is a registered user.

Great "Old Steve" that you have inside info. Can and will you answer the first question I asked in the first comment above? It reads: How much does the top dog at Caltrain get paid?


Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 8, 2020 at 10:31 am

Old Steve is a registered user.

Samtrans' Salaries should be publicly available. I have no info about where to find salary of top manager of the railroad operator. I also have no interest, as any individual salary is a small fraction of overall costs. The agencies have presented us with a binary choice: Continue to operate through the Pandemic restrictions, or eliminate passenger service for an undefinable future period.


Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 8, 2020 at 12:48 pm

Gary is a registered user.

But "Old Steve": All of the money extracted through the proposed sales tax could be used for salaries and other compensation for Caltrain employees. Wouldn't voters want to know how much the "top dog" and the rest of the employees are already being paid and how much more they could be paid if this measure were to pass?


Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 8, 2020 at 2:45 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

i have not seen the ballot language. I believe this discussion is about continuity and post pandemic modern operations. VTA and SF MTA have long term questions about governance. As reported in the story Samtrans has already forgiven millions to benefit the other two agencies from the original PCJPB purchase from the State. Clearly, over thirty years some funds would go to increases in personnel costs. Remember, Caltrain is no longer operated by Amtrak, but another rail operator. Private sector employees whose employer has a contract with Caltrain.


Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 8, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Gary is a registered user.

@Old Steve. When you do see the language of the ballot measure you are supporting, be sure to post another comment.


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