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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Caltrain board to consider dipping into 'one-time funds' to address fiscal crunch


Today, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which owns and operates Caltrain, is scheduled to consider dipping into “one-time funds” for the fourth consecutive year to help balance a preliminary operating budget.

For the past two years, Caltrain has maintained operations in part through the repayment of funds that are due to the San Mateo County Transit District for the original purchase of the Caltrain right of way in 1991. After fiscal-year 2013, those funds will be fully repaid — meaning that a year from now, Caltrain could face drastic service cuts and fare increases, Caltrain officials said in a prepared statement.

The agency is the only Bay Area transit system without a dedicated source of revenue. Agency staff are expected to tell the board in today’s meeting that “one-time funds are an unreliable and unsustainable source of funding,” Caltrain officials said.

“We have not solved our fiscal crisis,” said Caltrain Executive Director Mike Scanlon. “We have only delayed it by one year.”

The board will review a $111 million proposed budget; no service cuts or fare increases are expected in the coming year. The proposed budget does include $375,000 to add six new trains to relieve overcrowding during peak commute times. Caltrain’s weekday ridership is at a historic high this year, with a 12 percent increase and 20 consecutive months of ridership growth.

During peak commute times, many of the system’s most popular trains have more passengers than seats.

On the expense side, about 54 percent, or $59.6 million, would be spent on operations; 15 percent, or $16.8 million, on fuel; and 12.5 percent, or $13.9 million, on administrative costs, Caltrain officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/3/2012