March 11, 2011

Caltrain Saved, For Now

Chronicle reports: Caltrain has found a way to stay afloat for the next two years. The Metropolitan Planning Organization, the closest thing the balkanized Bay Area transit/transpo landscape has to a arbiter, stepped in and pledged to divert monies slated for maintenance projects (!) and capital projects like electrifying the Caltrain tracks (who knew?) and building a "Dumbarton Bridge line." Again: who knew.

And raise fares. Natch.

And to think people thought Caltrain would stay solvent by closing stations or limiting hours.

It's hard to tell from either the Chronicle or the Examiner account whether the diverted funds are the MTO telling Caltrain what to do with its (Caltrain's) money, or whether it's the MTO throwing its own money at Caltrain. I lean toward the latter. The plan is for Caltrain to locate a dedicated funding source in the next two years--it is unique among all Bay Area transit agencies in lacking some kind of local tax revenue source. Because the current arrangement is hardly appealing, for anyone. And one of the craziest things is that Caltrain has one of the highest farebox recovery rates in the area; they get more of their budget from fares sold than BART or Muni do. Through the looking glass.

At least the new Transbay Terminal has some sweet public art commissions lined up: Tim Hawkinson plans to use rubble from the old Transbay Terminal to make a new sculpture. Previous work:

A bear!
And a "300-foot long sculpture was comprised largely of 13 bus-sized inflated bags", AKA a giant bagpipe.

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