Caltrain has lost significant ridership and funding during the Covid-19 pandemic, but after Tuesday’s election, it may receive a lifeline and long-term financial support.
Measure RR, which requires a two-thirds vote from three Bay Area counties, looks like it will comfortably pass with 100 percent of precincts reporting.
As of early Wednesday morning, San Francisco County reported 74 percent in favor of the measure, San Mateo County with 72 percent in favor and Santa Clara County with 67 percent supporting it.
“With the passage of Measure RR, Caltrain now has for the first time in its nearly 30-year history a reliable and dedicated funding source,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine, who also chairs the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board that oversees Caltrain.
The measure would implement an eighth-cent sales tax increase in the three counties that would raise an estimated $108 million every year for 30 years.
Caltrain depends on fares for 70 percent of its revenue and lost 95 percent of its ridership during the Covid-19 shelter-in-place order—created an $18.5 million budget deficit.
“Measure RR funds will allow Caltrain to weather the Covid pandemic with continued service and provide faster, more frequent, and affordable service in the future,” Pine said.
The sales tax will also fund electrification of the train line and fund an equity plan that provides fares at half-price to low-income riders.
“Caltrain will continue to be a critical component of our public transit network and will help sustainably and equitably drive our economic recovery,” Pine said.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo celebrated the measure’s passage.
“This was a measure that was very near left for dead a couple months ago,” he reminded. “I’m grateful several people came together, overcoming a lot of mistrust and disagreement across the region to take a chance in passing a measure that will not just save Caltrain, but enable us to dramatically bolster service in a way that will provide a real alternative to gridlock on 101.”
The numbers from early Wednesday are not yet certified.
Grace Hase also contributed to this report.