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Caltrain plans service cuts, fare hike; 2012 shutdown possible

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  • 6/3 SMCo. Times
    Published Thursday, June 3, 2010, by the San Mateo County Times Caltrain will cut service in October, raise fares in January By Mike Rosenberg San Mateo County
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4, 2010
      Published Thursday, June 3, 2010, by the San Mateo County Times

      Caltrain will cut service in October, raise fares in January

      By Mike Rosenberg
      San Mateo County Times

      Caltrain intends to cut service in October and raise fares in January and may create a "wind down plan" to prepare for a possible shuttering of the railroad in 2012, officials said Thursday.

      The Caltrain board unanimously declared a fiscal emergency for the fiscal year that begins in July, which will allow the agency to raise fares and cut service more easily. Immediately after, the board heard for the first time proposals to close some of the $36 million gap -- out of a $100 million annual budget -- the agency faces starting in July 2011.

      The directors later this summer will vote on two fare increase proposals, and the one they choose will go into effect in January -- exactly two years after the last jump in ticket prices.

      The board could either raise base fares by 25 cents to generate $2 million annually or hike each zone fare by 25 cents to generate $2.8 million. Caltrain fares are based on the number of zones a rider travels through, with a trip between San Francisco and San Jose spanning four zones.

      The idea is an about-face for an agency that said earlier this year it would not raise fares because it would drive away too many riders.

      Deputy CEO Chuck Harvey acknowledged that "fares are a sensitive subject, particularly in this economy," but officials said they were left with few options.

      "We've kind of got our backs against the wall here," said spokeswoman Christine Dunn. "And it has been two years."

      As for service cuts, officials said there would be some reductions in October, but the bulk would come in mid-to-late 2011, when larger budget problems are projected. That is when SamTrans, San Francisco Muni and Santa Clara VTA are expected to further slash their annual Caltrain subsidies, from a peak of $39 million currently to $11 million.

      Among the options are to eliminate weekend service, which would save $420,000 annually, and halt trains on the Gilroy extension, which would free up the most cash, $770,000.

      Also, the agency could erase from its schedule four midday trains, two in each direction, and save $200,000. Finally, it could stop the first two trains of the day, plus two more after 8 p.m., and save $170,000.

      The numbers factor in the revenue lost from misplaced riders. Only 82 people ride the Gilroy extension each weekday. Other cuts would impact 18,400 weekend trips, 1,100 midday passengers, 200 early morning riders and an undetermined number of late night travelers.

      "When we start cutting service, we start losing revenue in a big way," Harvey said. "So you have to cut a lot."

      Board member Omar Ahmad, the San Carlos vice mayor, suggested Thursday that Caltrain create a "wind down plan" to prepare for the worst and ensure the agency was not "playing poker" with its riders.

      "Unless you can find a very different way of doing business, let's start talking about the obvious, which is how would you wind the thing down. and what would it mean," Ahmad said in an interview. "I think folks need to have a very clear picture of (their) choices."

      Caltrain officials said they will consider the motion but, having just heard the idea Thursday, would not commit to creating the plan. Although they are optimistic, they acknowledge that without major changes, the railroad is endangered.

      "We have not been able to find a service model that will keep this railroad open" in 2012, Harvey said.

      In other budget news, officials said Thursday they will fill the $4.9 million capital budget gap -- a separate funding plan bankrolled mostly by money earmarked for infrastructure -- by deferring cosmetic projects on trains. There will be no seat cushions replaced or windows cleaned this year, for instance.

      "We're not going to have things look quite as nice," Harvey said.

      Also, the agency plans to save $500,000 by closing its two ticket offices at the San Jose and San Francisco stations.

      Another proposal would raise $150,000 by increasing the employer-sponsored GO Pass from $140 to $155.

      The fiscal emergency is the second in as many years for the agency. Last year, it paved the way for Caltrain to trim service from 98 to 90 trains.

      How will Caltrain balance its budget?

      Proposal / Annual Caltrain savings
      25-cent per zone fare hike = $2.8 million
      25-cent base fare hike = $2 million
      Eliminate Gilroy service = $770,000
      Close both ticket offices = $500,000
      Eliminate weekend service = $420,000
      Cut four midday trains = $200,000
      Cut four morning, night trains = $170,000
      GO Pass hike from $140 to $155 = $150,000

      Source: Caltrain

      Mike Rosenberg covers San Mateo, Burlingame, Belmont and transportation. Contact him at 650-348-4324.


      [BATN: See also:

      Caltrain declares fiscal emergency; eyes ending SJ-Gilroy service
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/45400

      Caltrain board to focus on ways to close $12.5m budget deficit
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/45383

      Mountain View to urge VTA to maintain Caltrain funding
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/45373

      Cash-starved Caltrain to get $4m one-time federal boost
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/45360

      Huge Caltrain cuts may include elimination of service south of SJ
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/45324

      Councilwoman urges pressure on Caltrain to save Gilroy service
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/45310

      Caltrain deficit may hit $40m; BART debt eats half of Samtrans tax
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/45151

      Caltrain eyes further spending cuts to balance $12.5m budget gap
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/45148

      Letter: Counties must help Caltrain obtain dedicated funding
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/45110

      Caltrain to again declare fiscal emergency to speed service cuts
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/45072

      Letter: Eliminating or cutting Caltrain will hurt Bay Area economy
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/44840

      Editorial: Cities must help avoid Caltrain cuts
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/44808

      Caltrain riders hope devastating service cuts don't materialize
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/44785

      Caltrain riders try to avert huge service cuts as new blog launches
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/44773

      Column: Why Caltrain is an orphan & 5 myths about Caltrain
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/44772

      Letter: Keep Caltrain rolling with a state tax on oil
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/44762

      Caltrain crisis has officials eying new sources for operating cash
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/44717

      Caltrain goes broke; will likely cut weekend, night, midday trains
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/44689

      Caltrain declares fiscal emergency; won't suspend weekend service
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/41730

      Caltrain backs off fare hikes, cutting weekend or Gilroy service
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/41683

      Caltrain may end Gilroy and weekend service and raise all fares
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/41539

      Caltrain faces fiscal emergency; faces $10.1m deficit in FY09-10
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/41373

      Caltrain to declare fiscal emergency; fare hike, service cut looms
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/41335

      Caltrain ridership up; VTA-caused Gilroy ridership drop continues
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/34771

      Caltrain drops SJ-Gilroy from plan to electrify by 2014
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/29913

      VTA throws more money away: this time on Caltrain to Gilroy
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/21894

      Caltrain express on track; Gilroy ridership falls
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/14762 ]
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