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Peninsula Transportation Insider
In This Issue
Commuter Check Cuts?
SamTrans Service Plan
Federal Funding Update
HSR Business Plan Analysis
Caltrain Update
Caltrain Explores Wifi

Commuter Tax Benefits At Risk
Take Action Logo 

For the second year in a row, commuters are at risk of losing valuable pre-tax transit benefits.


Commuter check benefits allow transit riders to deduct the cost of their monthly transit passes on a pre-tax basis up to $230 each month.  


Please join SamTrans and Caltrain in supporting this important benefit for transit users by visiting the Commuter Check Benefits site and signing the petition.


SamTrans Staff Continue Service Planning Outreach

SamTrans is holding public meetings to gather community feedback on the SamTrans Service Plan.

Staff will be presenting to various stakeholder groups throughout the months of December and January.    


Once the second round of outreach is complete, SamTrans will be returning to the community late in the first quarter of 2012 with final recommendations on services that can be improved, restructured or potentially eliminated.  There will be another round of outreach before those recommendations are finalized and sent to the SamTrans Board of Directors. 


The SSP is an 18-month long study of the SamTrans system that seeks to increase ridership and farebox revenue, and better match District resources with community needs. 


It's been more than 10 years since SamTrans conducted a system-wide service review. 

For information on scheduling or attending a meeting contact SamTrans.

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December 2011
Welcome to the inaugural issue of Peninsula Transportation Insider, an e-newsletter delivering critical legislative, project and public transportation analysis.  We'd like you to join this conversation by following  Caltrain and SamTrans on facebook or emailing us directly with thoughts, questions and concerns about peninsula transportation.  
Federal Transportation Funding Update 


On Nov. 18, President Obama signed a bill that maintains current federal investment in highway and transit programs through Sept. 30, 2012. The bill also includes $500 million multimodal transportation investment funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Grand Boulevard Initiative was able to successfully compete for TIGER funding in 2011 to support planning for its Complete Streets Initiative, which is intended to reinvent El Camino Real through a unified vision throughout each of the cities it crosses. CSI will include demonstration projects and design initiatives that integrate the roadway with sustainable development and activate the street through pedestrian and transit activity.


Congress continues to wrestle with the authorization of a Surface Transportation Bill that will maintain multi-year funding levels for highway and transit systems.

New SamTrans Gillig


The U.S. Senate's authorization proposal would extend current highway and transportation funding levels for another two years. Before the full senate can consider the proposal an additional $12 billion above what the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax would support over that time will need to be identified. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recently passed the proposal and are waiting on action from other committees to provide more detail including how to fund the additional $12 billion.


Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives is pursuing a longer, six-year authorization proposal. Early versions of that proposal would have slashed funding for critical transit and highway programs by over 30 percent, but House leadership recently directed key committee leaders to look for ways to preserve existing funding levels. One proposal by House Republicans would fund transportation infrastructure with revenues from expanded domestic oil and gas production.


Both chambers plan to take up these competing authorization proposals early next year.

High Speed Rail Releases Business Plan 


 High Speed Rail Image On Nov. 1, the California High Speed Rail Authority released and is seeking comment on its Draft Business Plan.


The comment period is expected to close in mid-January. The plan has to be approved by the High Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors and go to state legislators for adoption. In the meantime, various legislative committees will continue to hold public hearings to review the plan.


As part of the business plan, the HSRA evaluated the blended option for the Peninsula rail corridor proposed by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-14th), State Senator Joe Simitian (D-11th) and Assembly Member Rich Gordon (D-21st). According to the plan, a blended option is a viable alternative to earlier proposals that called for a new, fully grade separated, four-track system, proposals that were met with a great deal of community concern. By contrast, a blended system would primarily operate along Caltrain's existing track configuration, which is primarily a two-track system.


By maximizing the use of existing infrastructure, this approach has potential to help control costs and minimize community impacts by remaining substantially within the existing Caltrain corridor.


Caltrain staff has been evaluating the blended system concept since it was introduced. The Caltrain Modernization Program team has completed an initial capacity analysis demonstrating that the blended system is operationally viable. Results of that analysis are available for review and comment along with additional information about the next phase of analysis to help determine the overall feasibility of the blended system concept. Caltrain staff anticipates making the second phase of the capacity analysis available for community feedback summer 2012.  More information on the process can be found here.


Caltrain is looking forward to continuing a dialogue with community stakeholders and the public about how best to modernize Caltrain and deliver state-of-the-art high-speed rail service to the Bay Area.


Any questions or comments about the Caltrain Modernization Program effort and its coordination with the California High Speed Rail Authority can be directed to



Caltrain System Update  
With increasing ridership and farebox revenue and a preliminary proposal for a balanced budget in Fiscal Year 2013, Caltrain is focused on long-term planning to ensure it remains sustainable well into the future.


Caltrain continues to see unprecedented ridership growth of nearly 9 percent year-over-year for October2011. 


The growth is having a positive impact on farebox revenue, which has reached record levels and is approaching 50 percent of the cost of operating the rail system.


"Nearly fifty percent farebox recovery ratios are extremely strong for any transit agency, bus or rail," said Chuck Harvey, Caltrain's deputy CEO. 


Ridership growth is also contributing to system-wide delays as the twin challenges of dwell time delays at stations to serve the large number of commuters and aging equipment prone to mechanical issues impact on-time performance. 

"I guess you could say that we are victims of our own success," said Harvey.  "We have a program in place called 'State of Good Repair' to
Crowded Mountain View Platform

assess and plan for equipment maintenance and we are continually looking for ways to improve efficiency for our customers."


Caltrain will spend the next year working closely with Bay Area transportation officials, business groups, communities and advocates to identify strategies for funding Peninsula rail service and meeting the vision for the future of the railroad.  To learn more about these efforts visit Caltrain's website.

Caltrain Investigating WiFi Service


Caltrain is reviewing options for onboard wireless internet service. Recognizing the substantial benefits of offering wifi service on trains, the Caltrain board approved the hiring of a consultant who has begun looking at best practices in the implementation of wifi on transit systems in September 2011.

 wireless icon image

Caltrain's IT staff will be working closely with a consultant to determine what unique challenges the system might pose to the implementation of wifi, reviewing equipment and service providers and understanding how it could benefit regular train operations as well as passengers.


Caltrain staff recognizes that wireless service must not only be effective, but it has to come with a workable business plan and, most critically for customers, it has to be reliable.




In the News

Politico's Adam Snider writes about the state of transportation today and how increased funding and systemic reform can change its future.


The United States Department of Transportation says the High Speed Rail Business Plan offers Californians "new jobs and a bright future."  


The New York Times is reporting the Federal Reserve is lowering their forecast for economic growth, choosing not to take additional action to stimulate growth due to concerns about inflation.