Caltrain holds public meeting on deficit

June 4, 2009 11:55:07 AM PDT
Caltrain riders are speaking out on proposals that will affect their commutes and wallets. The agency is meeting to discuss closing a nearly $3 million budget deficit.

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The good news -- no daily fare increases. But the Caltrain board is in the middle of a couple of public hearings. It's declaring a fiscal emergency, and it's listening to comments on alternative ways to manage the budget shortfall.

Three of Caltrain's proposals to deal with the deficit include:

  • Raise parking rates from $2 to $3 a day, and from $20 to $30 a month;
  • Decrease midday service to every hour, instead of every 30 minutes;
  • And raise the price of its employer-sponsored "GoPass" tickets.

    "Oh it hurts, it hurts a lot," said Raymond Hobson a Caltrain commuter.

    The ticket fare to ride Caltrain already increased by 25 cents at the beginning of the year. And with budget deficits soaring every which way you look across industries some commuters have been bracing for higher fares.

    "It's never going to change. They're always going to jack up the prices. They're always going to hurt anyone that wants to take the train. You know, what can I do about it?" said Gerardo Castillo, Caltrain commuter.

    What some passengers have done about it is speak out to Caltrain's board of directors during public meetings last month. The gatherings were held to discuss Caltrain's $10 million deficit, and what to do about it.

    "When people came to the community meetings and gave us comment at that time. They were really more comfortable with increases in fares; they really wanted to keep the service," said Christine Dunn, Caltrain spokesperson.

    The transit agency listened - so far it's decided to keep fares the same and maintain full service from San Francisco to Gilroy, as well as run the same weekend schedule. These saves came after a recent series of budget cuts. Now the deficit is down to $2.7 million, but the fiscal emergency isn't over yet.

    "With the budget crisis and people unwilling to pay taxes anymore you've got to expect higher fares, lower service. It's just the reality of the situation today," said Michael Kremer a Caltrain commuter.

    A couple factors that have led to Caltrain's shortfall include -- a decline in fare revenue because regional job losses have caused a drop in ridership. Also, Caltrain is receiving less operating money from its partner agencies due to a drop in state funding. The board will not take any action on service cuts or other solutions until its next meeting.

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