Thursday, May 03, 2012

Caltrain to review preliminary operating budget

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The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, the agency that owns and operates Caltrain, will consider a preliminary operating budget at its board meeting on May 3 that will be balanced using one-time funds for the fourth consecutive year.

Caltrain is the only Bay Area transit system without a dedicated source of revenue.

For the past two years, Caltrain has maintained operations in part through one-time only funds. After Fiscal Year 2013, those funds will be gone, which means that that a year from now, Caltrain could face drastic service cuts and fare increases.

"We have not solved our fiscal crisis," said Caltrain Executive Director Mike Scanlon. "We have only delayed it by one year."

The board will review a $111 million proposed budget; no service cuts or fare increases are expected in the coming year.

The proposed budget includes $375,000 to add six new trains to relieve overcrowding during peak commute times. Caltrain's weekday ridership is at a historic high this year with a 12 percent increase and 20 consecutive months of ridership growth. During peak commute times, many of the system's most popular trains have more passengers than seats.

Expenses continue to be conservative. About 54 percent or $59.6 million will be spent on operating the service; 15 percent or $16.8 million on fuel and 12.5 percent or $13.9 million on administrative costs.

Without a dedicated source of funding, Caltrain relies on contributions from its three partner agencies, the city and county of San Francisco, SamTrans and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency, to make up 30 percent or $33.5 million of the proposed operating budget. Fares account for 55 percent or $60.3 million. The remaining funds needed to balance the balance budget vary from year to year. In previous years, Caltrain used savings, one-time grants and extra fare revenue to balance the operating budget.

As the year moves forward, Caltrain will continue to work with its partners and stakeholders to develop strategies for new sources of revenue.

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