Compromise Reached to Save Caltrain

The saga of the three-county sales tax upon which the future of Caltrain depends is now in the hands of voters.

2 minute read

August 24, 2020, 8:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


San Francisco Rail Transit

Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

"San Francisco's Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an eighth-cent sales tax measure for the November to fund Caltrain during a special meeting Friday -- the last day to place the measure on the county ballots," reports Daniel Montes.

The decision culminates weeks of political back and forth as political leaders from San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties held the sales tax measure as leverage in a battle over governance of the commuter rail system.

San Francisco and Santa Clara officials in July approved a version of the sales tax that San Mateo officials called dead on arrival. This latest version of the sales tax measure, with governance issues stripped from the measure that will appear before voters in November, came in just under the wire, and could save the beleaguered rail system. Earlier in July, the San Francisco County Supervisors rejected a version of the ballot measure approved by San Mateo county officials.

"If ultimately approved by two thirds of voters across San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, the tax would generate an estimated $108 million annually. The funding is desperately needed to operate the system as ridership has plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic," according to Montes.

More than providing a lifeline during the diminished ridership of the pandemic, the sales tax measure is also intended to fund a major expansion of service on Caltrain, designed to be commensurate with existing service on the other regional transit system serving the San Francisco Bay Area—BART.

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