As people may have read about already--Caltrain is facing a major funding shortfall that will affect schedules and service as early as this July.
It's very unusual that a major commuter rail does not have a dedicated funding source. Caltrain has been jointly funded since the early nineties (the last time it had a funding emergency) by VTA, SamTrans, and Muni--the transit organizations in each of the three counties that Caltrain serves. Those three agencies have their own funding difficulties.
It is in this climate that both business groups and grassroots organizations have come together to find solutions. Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) has declared saving Caltrain as their biggest priority for 2011, and I joined them at their Save Caltrain summit last Friday held at Stanford University.
One thing that struck me is that 40,000 trips are taken on Caltrain each day. That means quite a number of people depend on the train. In addition, even people who don't think that they depend on the train--motorists who use 101, for example--will be severely impacted if Caltrain service is scaled back or lost altogether, due to additional roadway congestion.
In every crisis there is an opportunity--I think in this situation the opportunity is an invitation to collectively take an honest look at what transportation we want to promote in Silicon Valley. This is an opportunity to reallocate funding towards the modes that we would like to encourage--both public transportation and active transportation methods. It may now be possible to have interesting discussions about HOT lanes and congestion pricing, and to work out systems in which auto use fees help to support world-class public transit systems.
Folks who are interested can join in the summit taking place in San Carlos this Saturday--details can be found on the SVBC calendar.