Letter to Santa Clara County Supervisors on Caltrain

July 21, 2020

July 21, 2020

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
70 West Hedding Street
San Jose, CA 95110

Dear President Chavez and Members of the Board,

As the author of the legislation that allows a Caltrain dedicated funding measure to be put on the ballot, I urge you to pass a clean measure, without conditions that restrict the funds from being made available immediately and continuously to support Caltrain operations and capital needs.

My intent in authoring SB 797 was to provide Caltrain with a dedicated source of revenue so that it can provide reliable, improved service for all of the communities it serves. That funding is still needed to grow the service and transform it in the ways envisioned by the Caltrain Business Plan, but the revenues are also now critical to the very survival of the system following the devastating impacts of the pandemic.

Attaching new conditions that limit Caltrain’s ability to access these revenues is well outside of what is allowed under SB 797. A measure with these conditions will not make it to the ballot and if it did, I would oppose it and would encourage others to do the same.

Caltrain is the only system in the Bay Area without a dedicated source of revenue, making it especially vulnerable to the pandemic’s impacts on ridership. Limiting Caltrain’s ability to access the same funds that are meant to save it is a blatant power grab and is wrong.

Even if a measure were to pass, it is obvious from the legal opinions offered that the measure would very clearly be vulnerable to a legal challenge. Instead, I encourage you to move forward with a clean ballot measure. Polling shows that a clean measure has the best chance to pass, it is supported by a broad and vocal coalition of advocates, there is no question as to its legality, and it will save Caltrain from imminent shut down.

A vote for anything else is a vote against dedicated funding for Caltrain, and a vote against the riders that depend on it.

Jerry Hill
Senator, 13th District