$10 million won't reverse Caltrain, SamTrans cutsBy Mike Rosenberg
A $10.3 million windfall announced for Caltrain and SamTrans this week will not be enough to restore lost bus routes and train service and may not stave off further fare increases and service cuts, the agencies said Wednesday.
State legislation signed into law late Monday will use a complex gas tax swap formula to provide California public transit agencies with $750 million in unexpected cash over the next two years.
Caltrain will receive $5.1 million in July and $4.5 million more in July 2011. The San Mateo County Transit District, which operates SamTrans bus service, will get $5.2 million this year and $4.6 million more the next.
Caltrain eliminated eight of its 98 weekday trains in August while SamTrans wiped out 7.5 percent of its bus schedule in December.
"We know we're not going to be able to restore service and, in fact, we're hoping to be able to maintain service," said Christine Dunn, a spokeswoman for the sister agencies.
Dunn said it's too soon to know whether the state money will help prevent future fare increases and service cuts. Officials have until June to approve next year's budgets and have yet to release a list of possible cuts.
The SamTrans board, which spends about $98 million a year on bus service, will receive a budget update April 14. Earlier this month, SamTrans and Caltrain CEO Mike Scanlon said Caltrain's budget, currently $97 million, will be "jammed full of pain" when released this spring.
"We're continuing to experience decreases in ridership that translate into a loss in revenue for us," Dunn said about both SamTrans and Caltrain. The state money, she said, "is going to help, but we don't know to what extent."
In all, the state will dole out $400 million in transit funds this year, including $147 million to the Bay Area, and $350 million next year, including $128 million to the Bay Area.
BART will receive $26.2 million this year and $22.9 million in 2011, while Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority will get $15.5 million this year and $13.6 million the next.
In addition, San Mateo County will get an additional $1.1 million from the state for paratransit service during the next two years and an extra $1.5 million for lifeline service.
The gas tax swap - which won't affect prices at the pump - also gives the Peninsula more state funding for roadway improvements, mostly in 2011. The county government will receive an extra $861,000 from the state in the next two years while its cities will cumulatively collect an additional $1.3 million.
The legislation allows the state to eliminate its 6 percent gas sales tax and replace it with a 17.3 cent increase in excise gas tax, which can be spent on the state budget. Part of the excise tax increase revenues will be devoted to transit subsidies, which the state eliminated years ago as a budget cut move.
Copyright ©2010 San Mateo County Times. Published 03/24/2010.