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Nearly two-thirds of voters in the three California counties served by Caltrain would support a one-eighth cent sales tax to preserve Caltrain service during the COVID-19 pandemic and to expand service in the future, according to a public opinion poll commissioned by the agency.
The poll was conducted as Caltrain leaders consider advancing a ballot measure that would call for a dedicated revenue source to address the financial impact of the pandemic. Caltrain officials said in a press release said. To pass, the measure would need support from a combined two-thirds of voters in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
From June 11 through June 18, EMC Research polled about 1,255 likely voters through online and telephone surveys to gauge support of the potential measure for the November ballot.
Of those polled, 63 percent indicated support for the sales tax, and nearly 66 percent indicated they would lean toward supporting it. Support for the measure is up slightly from a similar poll conducted in last year, Caltrain officials said.
Top reasons for supporting the potential measure included easing highway traffic congestion, reducing air pollution and improving Caltrain frequency and capacity.
Caltrain is the only San Francisco Bay Area transit system without a dedicated source of revenue. Currently, the rail agency receives 70 percent of its funding from fare box revenue, which has taken a major hit in recent months due to stay-at-home restrictions during the pandemic. Since the shelter-in-place orders in California were issued earlier this year, Caltrain ridership has dipped by 95 percent, agency officials said.
Based on this poll, seven in 10 Caltrain riders who were riding Caltrain prior to the pandemic anticipate eventually returning to their old ridership habits in the future. About 55 percent of frequent riders said they would ride as often as they did pre-pandemic.