Boy just once I'd like to write up a post about some public agency that doesn't involve the words "cut," "deficit," or "gap." (Not to mention "dismal," "gloomy," and "horrendous.")
The service cuts proposed by Caltrain yesterday sound like all those adjectives and more. Here they are, prosaically described on the Caltrain web site.
Reduction of weekday trains to 48 from 86 to run during commute hours only, and any necessary adjustments to shuttle bus services
Suspension of weekday service at up to seven of the following stations: Bayshore, South San Francisco, San Bruno, Burlingame, Hayward Park, Belmont, San Antonio, Lawrence, Santa Clara and College Park
Suspension of all service south of the San Jose Diridon station (Tamien, Capitol, Blossom Hill, Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy)
Suspension of weekend service, including Tamien shuttle and holiday service
Suspension of special event service, such as baseball games and Bay to Breakers
Increase base fare by 25 cents
The Mercury News put a little more oomph into the announcement in its lead graf today:
Caltrain officials on Thursday proposed closing up to 16 stations in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties -- turning half the rail line's stops into ghost depots, stranding thousands of riders, and leaving several huge shopping and housing centers without their prized train stops next door.
Here's the paper's map of the proposed stations closings.
Caltrain says unless it can close a $30 million budget gap, the Reader's Digest version of the commuter rail system will go into effect on Jul 2.
But how likely is that?
"We have a very serious financial crisis looming. I think we've looked under every rock'for more money," Caltrain CEO Mike Scanlon is quoted in the Bay Area News Group article. Then, a bit further on: "...based on a recent outcry about the cuts, Scanlon said he is optimistic the agency can find long-term funding -- perhaps through a new regional tax -- to eventually reopen stations and resume full service."
Scanlon let it all out at the board meeting, apparently, as noted in Palo Alto Online:
In terms that were often pained and impassioned, board President Michael Scanlon spoke about the costs of losing Caltrain service.
People look at the costs but don't understand the greater impacts. With more people driving instead of taking the train, more car accidents will occur, Scanlon said.
"The fact is that more people will die," he said.
Scanlon said public perceptions of where funding comes from make it hard to make the case for saving public transit.
"Our society quite frankly is unenlightened. There is a widespread belief that highways are free," he said, pointing instead to gas and other levies that support roadways.
But subsidies Caltrain receives are criticized.
SF Streetsblog also came to Caltrain's defense today with this observation:
Although Caltrain lacks a dedicated funding stream, it is considered one of the Bay Area’s most efficient public transit systems with a 47-percent farebox recovery, second only to BART. Its administrative staff costs are among the lowest in the country at 6.4 percent of the budget.
If you want to weigh in on the proposed shutdowns, you can attend one or more of four community meetings in February. Dates and locations:
Feb. 14 – 7 pm. San Jose City Hall
200 East Santa Clara St., City Council Chambers, San Jose
Feb. 16 – 6 pm. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
1 South Van Ness, Atrium, San Francisco
Feb. 17 – 6 pm. Gilroy Senior Center
7371 Hanna St., Gilroy
Feb. 17 – 6 pm. San Mateo County Transit District
1250 San Carlos Ave., second floor auditorium San Carlos
A primer on how to testify at public meetings is provided by the blog Green Caltrain, in a post called Urgent next steps to save Caltrain.
"Imagine our communities without Caltrain," the post says. "This could very well happen, and sooner than we expect, if we don’t keep up the pressure."