Hillsdale Caltrain plans still on track despite fiscal woes 

City planners have made the Hillsdale Caltrain station a keystone of a major 20-year growth plan for the area, envisioning up to 750 new housing units, more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and new offices, along with relocating the station about a half-mile up the tracks.

But as the City Council and Planning Commission meet soon to gather input on the plans, Caltrain officials will be sorting out how to deal with a projected $30 million deficit that could force major service cuts.

Caltrain, which carries an average of 41,000 riders weekdays, has long been a magnet for Peninsula cities’ efforts to build so-called “transit-oriented developments.”

San Mateo officials say despite the Caltrain situation, they are still committed to encouraging development around Hillsdale, which they say has the potential for substantial ridership growth.

Councilor David Lim said he is hopeful Caltrain will find the funding it needs, though he believes the transit connections will not dry up completely.

“I think whether it’s Caltrain or some other mode of public transportation, that those rail lines are a unique opportunity to have transit-oriented development running through our community,” Lim said.

Chris Mohr, director of the county’s Housing Leadership Council, said other transit-oriented projects on the Peninsula also are moving through the planning stages, including San Carlos’ Transit Village.

Mohr said there are other attractions to a development near a Caltrain stop besides the train service, such as being close to a city’s downtown. “It may not matter that much if, temporarily, [Caltrain] service gets cut if they want that lifestyle,” Mohr said.

San Mateo Associate Planner Darcy Forsell said there is “a strong interest in growth” around Hillsdale, notably the Bay Meadows development, though Forsell said those new riders are likely years away.

Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said the agency is still encouraging development around the transit corridor, despite projecting a deficit of up to $30 million in its roughly $100 million budget next year.

“Every year we go through this dance to try to put the budget together, and in an economy like we’re experiencing right now, it becomes more and more challenging,” Dunn said.

Full steam ahead

San Mateo planners predict growth in the number of weekday riders at the Hillsdale Caltrain station, though it assumes new housing development and expansion of rail service.

2009: 1,941
2015: 3,071
2029: 5,708

Source: City of San Mateo

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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Shaun Bishop

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