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Caltrain’s board last week postponed previously approved fare increases until after June 2021, and approved the system’s first framework for equity policies.
The "Framework for Equity, Connectivity, Recovery and Growth" includes policies that will help ensure rail service recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that expands access to low-income individuals and communities of color that have historically been underrepresented in the system’s ridership, Caltrain officials said in a press release.
In order to implement the equity framework, Caltrain will need to survive the impacts of the pandemic that have reduced ridership by 95 percent. To make up for the ridership loss and to maintain service over the next year, the agency estimates it will need to identify an additional $18.5 million.
Caltrain staff identified a number of potential revenue sources, including the sale of naming rights.
In August, the board voted to place Measure RR on the Nov. 3 ballot in San Mateo, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties. If approved by two thirds of voters, funds from the measure could be leveraged to cover the budget shortfall and to implement the service and fare policies called for in the equity framework, agency officials said.
If no additional funding is identified, the rail service is at risk of shutting down, Caltrain officials said.
The framework's policies would improve connections to other local and regional systems that disadvantaged riders are more likely to rely on. It would also support increased off-peak service to make the system more relevant for workers with non-traditional work hours. Under the framework, Caltrain also would work toward better regionally coordinated fare and transfer policies.
Last week, the board also voted to postpone adoption of the fiscal-year 2021 operating and capital budgets until its October meeting, when the board will consider approving a budget that covers operations through the end of 2020.