Caltrain board mulls ways to cut budget 

Possible service reductions and fare increases will be the main topics of discussion when Caltrain’s board of directors meets today about the transit agency’s $12.5 million budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.

The agency, which has a total budget of $97 million, has been hurt by dwindling ridership, suspension of some state funding and lower-than-projected contributions from its three partner transit agencies.

In April, Caltrain Executive Director Mike Scanlon speculated that the agency could face a budget deficit of up to $30 million for the upcoming fiscal year, leaving it little choice but to dramatically reduce service.

At the agency’s last board meeting, the deficit was revised to $12.5 million, but Scanlon still talked of the need for service cuts — including the possible elimination of all weekday and afternoon weekday trains — to help make the agency fiscally viable.

Caltrain, which last raised fares in January 2009, could increase rates again to make up its current shortfall, according to agency documents. The agency will discuss specific proposals for service cuts, cost reductions and fare increases at today’s meeting, according to Christine Dunn, Caltrain spokeswoman.

The agency, which carries roughly 36,000 riders every weekday, is supported in large part by subsidies from local transit providers. For next fiscal year, which begins July 1, Muni, SamTrans and the Valley Transportation Authority are expected to slash their contributions to Caltrain by $14 million, from $39 million to $25 million.

Although the fiscal year starts July 1, the board of directors can approve a balanced budget after that date.

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Will Reisman

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