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Caltrain’s board last week adopted a $35 million operating budget for the second-quarter of fiscal-year 2021, and an $84 million FY2021 capital budget as the commuter railroad evaluates the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The board also reviewed options for resolving a significant budget shortfall for the second half of the fiscal year due to fare revenue losses as ridership on the California passenger-rail system hovers around 5 percent of pre-pandemic levels, Caltrain officials said in a press release.
The Q2 budget approved by the board assumes that ridership will continue to hover at around 5 percent through December. If ridership recovers more quickly and continues to recover gradually over the course of FY2021, the size of Caltrain’s budget shortfall would be about $18.5 million.
Proposed strategies for addressing shortfall include drawing $13.7 million currently in reserve, $5.3 million from FY2021 State Rail Assistance funds and applying a remaining $300,000 balance from FY2020.
Caltrain officials also are considering shifting capital funds for select state-of-good-repair projects, furloughing contract operators and suspending weekend service.
Workforce and service reductions represent significant potential cost savings options in the short term. However, the longer term impact of those options would lead to lack of employees with specialized skills, service restart costs and negative impacts to the riding public, Caltrain officials said.
While recovery scenarios plan for a possible 30 percent to 75 percent increase in ridership next year, the agency’s financial deficit in the coming fiscal year is estimated to be between $30 million to $75 million, officials said.