Due to the success of our local economy, the peninsula’s rail link, Caltrain, has record ridership. Trains are often packed to capacity. The system’s ability to carry passengers is critical to economic growth and to mitigating road congestion.
The system is overdue for upgrades that would improve its ability to cost-effectively carry passengers. Caltrain has been working to electrify the system since the 1990s. Electrification will allow Caltrain to run trains faster, more frequently, and at lower cost.
In September 2016, Caltrain signed contracts to carry out the electrification work. The contracts are contingent upon Caltrain funding the project by March 1, 2017. Without funding, construction will be postponed and the contracts will need to be renegotiated. Local, state, and regional funding is committed, but the Federal Transit Administration has informed Caltrain that federal funding is deferred until the President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget.
Earlier this Month, California’s Republican delegation asked US Transportation Secretary Chao to deny the funding for Caltrain in hopes of blocking construction of High Speed Rail. The Federal Transit Administration has subsequently informed Caltrain that federal funding is deferred until the President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget.
Unless the United States Department of Transportation releases the federal portion of the funding by March 1, the electrification project will be delayed. 9,600 American jobs associated with this work will not be created. Local commuters will continue to pack into overcrowded trains, and our roads will see no relief for another half decade.
Call to Action
Actions you can take:
- Sign Caltrain’s White House Petition
- Send a Letter to Secretary Chao
- Call Secretary Chao and her career staffers:
Elaine Chao (202) 366-4000
Matthew Welbes (202) 366-4040
Lana Hurdle (202) 366-6031
- Call Democratic lawmakers and thank them for their continued support:
Anna Eshoo (650) 323-2984
Zoe Lofgren (408) 271-8700
Ro Khanna (408) 436-2720
Kamala Harris (415) 355 – 9041
Diane Feinstein (415) 393-0707
- If you have friends or family living in Republican-controlled areas of the state, explain this issue to them and ask them to contact their Congressional representative.
- Check out http://www.greencaltrain.com/2017/02/top-actions-to-save-caltrain-electrification/
Green Caltrain has a good review of what could happen if the funding does not come through. One prospect is to proceed with the project, but use slower electric locomotives instead of optimal “Electrical Multiple Unit” trains, which would limit the capacity increases otherwise possible through modernization. Our region could and should to follow the examples of Seattle and Los Angeles to pass a transit “megameasure” to fund our own infrastructure, but such an undertaking could not even begin until November 2018. Caltrain could perhaps be combined with BART, privatized, or underwritten by wealthy local tech companies.
UPDATE: Kim-Mai Cutler has published an excellent article on this topic with greater context and a wider call to action.