Joint San Francisco & Santa Clara Statement on Caltrain Sales Tax

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Joint San Francisco & Santa Clara Statement on Caltrain Sales TaxSupport includes Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). The full statement can be found  here: Joint SF-SC Statement on Caltrain Sales Tax

As elected representatives of Santa Clara and San Francisco counties, we call on San Mateo County to join us in supporting a comprehensive path forward for Caltrain. This includes forwarding for voter consideration a dedicated sales tax to support the railway immediately and into the future, as well as engaging in meaningful and timely discussions of Caltrain governance reform, which is key to ensuring accountability and transparency for our constituents. The proposed 1/8-cent sales tax would provide a reliable source of funds for Caltrain and relieve the local transit budgets in all three counties. This is much needed and desired. However, given the serious nature of any tax proposal, we are keen to advance governance reforms in parallel, to ensure that we have the ability to directly oversee the use of funds and truly shape and set policy in an equitable manner.

Caltrain’s current governance and management structure requires significant change to facilitate these processes and outcomes. In particular, we must ensure equitable representation for Santa Clara and San Francisco counties, which together comprise nearly 80% of anticipated sales tax proceeds.

We believe Caltrain is an incredibly valuable asset to our counties and the greater Bay Area and want the system to thrive. To make needed changes, we should work toward CEO accountability and establishing an independent and dedicated agency at Caltrain, separate from SamTrans, even as we pursue a permanent source of revenue for Caltrain operations and development. Our proposed sales tax ballot measure provides for immediate needs to keep essential Caltrain services running, while setting out a reasonable process and timetable to address needed reforms.

It is never a ‘good time’ to deal with governance, but we can’t keep kicking the can down the tracks. There are myriad needs in this Covid-era and we need meaningful reform to allow for the robust policy discussions, trade-off considerations and ultimately, tough decisions that will be needed in order for Caltrain to navigate these challenging times. If we work collaboratively, we can emerge stronger than ever to realize the railway’s potential to provide dynamic, metro-like service for all users across our region.

Now is the time for all the partners to join together to fund Caltrain and create an equitable, accountable and transparent organization. Only in this way can Caltrain become the exceptional example of regional cooperation and investment that the region and its taxpayers deserve.