Fiscal emergency at Caltrain
- Published Monday, February 28, 2005, in the San Mateo Daily Journal
By Dana Yates Daily Journal Staff
Years of state and local budget problems are taking a toll on
Caltrain, which plans to declare a fiscal emergency next month.
For the first time, the Caltrain board of directors will vote this
week to hold a public meeting about declaring an emergency, which
could lead to fair increases and cuts to services, said Caltrain
spokeswoman Jayme Maltbie Kunz.
"Declaring a fiscal emergency puts up a red flag to the state
Legislature," said Maltbie Kunz.
The estimated $11 million deficit is caused in part by the state
siphoning money from Proposition 42 funds, which required gas-tax
revenue be spent on transportation. Caltrain is also spending more
money than it's receiving because the three counties served by the
rail system -- San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara -- have frozen
their contributions for the past four years to save their own budgets
while costs of running trains has increased, Maltbie Kunz said.
In the past, Caltrain relied on its reserves to balance the budget.
However, this year there is only $1.4 million in reserves. Before
balancing the budget last year, the reserves were $9.8 million,
Maltbie Kunz said.
The Caltrain Board of Directors will meet Thursday to discuss the
problem and arrange for a public hearing at its April 7 meeting.
"It's frustrating. Our numbers are rising, people are starting to go
back to work, but it's no time to start cutting services," said Mike
Nevin, chair of the Caltrain board of directors.
The budget will have to be approved by June, but officials aren't
ready to talk specifics.
"Everything is on the table. What we have to do is run the
scenarios," Maltbie Kunz said.
Part of the running the scenarios means seeing what riders will be
willing to deal with. With few other commute options to turn to,
riders say their willing to deal with cuts and pay a little extra to
stay out of their cars.
"You expect the fees to rise. I don't care if they would cut
something in the middle of the day, but I don't think they should cut
it for people getting to work in the mornings," said Carol Meredith, a
San Jose resident who commutes to San Mateo everyday.
Meredith said she would be willing to pay an extra $5 a month in fair
Caltrain hasn't raised fairs since 2002, but has made service cuts in
the last few years.
"Sounds kind of like normal," said Joe Mees of Daly City of the
proposed cuts. "I suppose I'd do it without grumbling."
Mees commutes to San Mateo three times a week and his wife takes the
train to Atherton. The couple is only riding Caltrain until Bay Area
Rapid Transit makes its way south, he said. [BATN's visionaries, for
their part, are only riding bicyles until personal gyrocopters powered
by room temperature fusion arrive on the scene.]
Dana Yates can be reached at dana@... or (650) 344-5200 x106.