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MTC Endorses Funding Measures for Caltrain, Sonoma County

MTC Commissioners this month voted to support Measure RR, the one-eighth-cent sales tax to provide funding for Caltrain that will be considered by voters in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties this  November, and to support Sonoma County Measure DD, which would extend the county’s existing quarter-cent transportation sales tax for an additional 20 years.

Measure RR, which requires approval by at least two-thirds of voters in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, would provide Caltrain with its first-ever dedicated source of funding, and could be used to support the railroad’s operations, maintenance and capital equipment needs. If approved by voters, the measure would boost the tax on each dollar of taxable sales in the three counties by an eighth of a cent starting on July 1, 2021 and continuing for 30 years.

The three agencies represented by on Caltrain’s governing board — the City and County of San Francisco, SamTrans and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority — will reduce their contributions to Caltrain if the sales tax measure is approved.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Caltrain boasted the highest farebox recovery rate of any commuter railroad in the U.S., with passenger fares covering 70 percent of its operating costs and demand for space on the trains in recent years far exceeding capacity. Caltrain projects now underway include electrification of the corridor to speed travel and allow for more frequent departures in either direction. Future projects include extension of the Caltrain corridor to downtown San Francisco’s Salesforce Transit Center.

Local street and road maintenance accounts for the biggest share (38 percent) of the Go Sonoma Act, as the investment plan for the proposed 20-year extension of Sonoma County’s quarter-cent transportation sales tax is known. Other investment categories include improving traffic flow and safety (27 percent); increasing bus service, transit affordability and first/last mile connectxions (23 percent); and building more bicycle and pedestrian paths and trails (12 percent). While Sonoma County’s existing transportation sales tax, approved by voters as Measure M in 2004, is not set to expire until 2025, the entirety of its 20-year, $400 million revenue forecast is already committed to various projects around the county.

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