Caltrain board approves interim operating and capital budgets amid coronavirus uncertainty

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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Caltrain extends contract for rail service provider TASI.
Caltrain

As Caltrain takes on the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic head-on, the agency’s Board of Directors voted to approve interim operating and capital budgets for the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 at [the June] monthly meeting.

“With the full effects of the global crisis still unfolding, we believe it prudent to hold on determining a final budget for the remainder of the fiscal year until September,” said Caltrain Executive Director Jim Hartnett. “This strategy will allow for a more nimble approach as we anticipate greater clarity on the pandemic’s financial impact and the federal government’s response in the coming months.”

The approved $42.9 million first quarter interim operating budget includes a projected $8 million in farebox revenue, representing an $18.5 million decrease (69.8%) over Q1 farebox revenue in FY2020. This comes as the agency grapples with an unprecedented decline in ridership from 65,000 passengers per day to just 1,300. This has compounded existing challenges associated with the agency’s lack of a dedicated non-fare revenue stream.

To save on operational costs amid the severe drop in ridership, Caltrain temporarily reduced its weekday schedule from 92 trains per day to the current 42 trains. The railroad’s contract operator has also shifted staff from traditional operations to deferred maintenance and capital improvement projects.

Caltrain’s approved $19.1 million first quarter interim capital budget includes funding for Marin Street Bridge repairs, wayside bike parking improvements and a 22nd Street Station ADA feasibility study.

The approved revenues and expenditures will result in a budget deficit of approximately $20.2 million for Q1 of FY2021. To alleviate this shortage, Caltrain will carefully rely on funding provided by the recently enacted federal CARES Act to recoup some of the losses resulting from dramatically low ridership.

The FY2021 budget cycle begins on July 1.

A Caltrain press release.

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