Governor signs off on Caltrain sales-tax measure | News | Palo Alto Online |


Governor signs off on Caltrain sales-tax measure

Agency would need approval from San Mateo, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties

Caltrain's plan to ask voters for a sales-tax increase received a boost Tuesday, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that will allow the rail service to move ahead with the measure.

Senate Bill 797, which was authored by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, authorizes a measure for a sales tax of no more than one-eighth of a cent. The measure would have to be approved by Caltrain's partner agencies in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and then by a two-thirds majority of the voters in the three counties.

Caltrain, which is in the midst of a modernization project that includes electrification of its fleet, has long been the only transit agency with no dedicated funding source in California. To date, it has relied on annual contributions from each of the three counties.

In a statement, Caltrain Executive Dirctor Jim Hartnett said Hill's bill is "critical to supporting our efforts to upgrade Caltrain service so we can meet the evolving mobility demands of our growing region."

"The Caltrain Electrification Project that is currently under construction will provide us with the potential to dramatically increase rail service to Caltrain communities, and SB 797 provides the opportunity to invest in that potential to truly meet the long term needs of the region," Hartnett said.

Brown's signature brings the bill "one step closer to allowing the public to decide how they want to address traffic problems and improvements along the Caltrain corridor," Hill said in a statement.

"Our region is an economic powerhouse for our state and the Caltrain corridor is its major transportation artery," Hill said. "If our residents cannot get back and forth to work, school and their families because our main transportation corridor cannot accommodate them, we jeopardize the health of our robust economy and our quality of life."


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


41 people like this
Posted by toy train
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 10, 2017 at 10:08 pm

Governor Brown is AWFUL!! take your toy train and put it in a box. You have done more damage to this state than any other governor. Look at the mess you have put us in--and, all you can think about is some stupid train that goes to nowhere. What a waste of money that should be spent on infrastructure and water storage. your only solution is to tax tax tax. IMPEACH IMPEACH IMPEACH. You were awful in the 70's and you are awful now. You have ruined this once beautiful state with your mismanagement and self-interests. The train is the most ridiculous idea ever. if you want to ride a speed train move to Japan and leave California alone. How is this going to benefit anyone in this state? AWFUL!!!

41 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2017 at 11:00 pm

Caltrain electrification is just the small-scale implementation of Jerry Brown's giant CalHSR scheme to funnel Federal, State and Local tax dollars trough favored construction companies, unions, and real-estate developers, and into party campaign coffers.

30 people like this
Posted by Commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 11, 2017 at 7:39 am

This Gov needs to be Recalled
His go to solution is tax and fee.

32 people like this
Posted by Trains are Vital
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 11, 2017 at 11:05 am

Thank you for your leadership Governor Brown!

All you need to do is spend a week in Switzerland to understand the value of an electrified well run train system.

Caltrain is vitally important to keeping commuters off the roads. Electrifying Caltrain is an important step in keeping the system reliable, economical, clean, and modern.

[Portion removed.]

17 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2017 at 11:32 am

Much cheaper to improve public transportation than to spend more billions on freeway improvements that just cause more traffic. Too bad this tax wasn't passed 50 years ago.

17 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Governor Brown is the laughingstock of residents in nearly every other state. He is a terrible governor. He represents everything that is wrong with politics in California.

5 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

@Trains are Vital. Hear! Hear! [Portion removed.] Jerry Brown's policies SAVED California. While the rest of the country still languished under the big recession, a modest tax increase righted the ship. And we have a "rainy day" fund for the future.

7 people like this
Posted by trains are vital 2 U
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 11, 2017 at 1:45 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

11 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2017 at 2:24 pm

[Portion removed.] According to a recent poll (one skews to the left), Jerry Brown's approval rating in California is 52%. I suspect that a nationwide poll would drop that number considerably. After all, Nancy Pelosi's national approval rating has hovered around 29% for several years now.

I strongly disagree with the idea that Brown "saved" California. He simply raised taxes to extend the time needed for the next "rescue."

9 people like this
Posted by Trains are so outdated
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2017 at 2:31 pm

For those who support the train, please think about it:
With all the electric cars and autonomous driving cars coming, public transportation will be autonomous electric cars bring people end to end every where. Way more efficient and more.
It is coming faster than you think. And we will not have a population density as Asia and EU cities. Why waste money on trains?

7 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 11, 2017 at 3:41 pm

This should give us enough money to tunnel Caltrain underground from Castro St. to Menlo Park. I don't want to hear any more complaints about tunneling being too expensive. Taxes have been raised, billions more are coming in, time to build the tunnel once and for all.

4 people like this
Posted by Don't drink the KoolAid
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 11, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Don't drink the KoolAid is a registered user.

Even electric, autonomous cars are expansive and inefficient way to get around --especially if they are not well-supported by rock solid public transit.

Don't drink the UBer, Lyft, Google KoolAid.

3 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

@Nayeli: And we should care about a nationwide poll of Jerry Brown's approval rating, why? People living here are the ones who count.

7 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2017 at 4:38 pm

@Novelera - My point stands. In a left-leaning poll, Brown's approval rating is just 52%. That means 48% either don't think that he is doing a good job or don't have an opinion. I suspect a less biased poll would find that even less people think that he is doing an adequate job.

7 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2017 at 8:46 pm

How can anyone think trains are efficient?

Please explain... the two-dimensional system of roadways that carries over 99% of the Peninsulas's population door to door every day is inefficient, and the one-dimensional railroad that carries less than 1% of the Peninsula's population half way to where they are going is efficient?

If railroads are more efficient than roadways, then I guess what we need to do to make our roadways more efficient is eliminate all of the east-west streets!

2 people like this
Posted by Will
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 11, 2017 at 8:58 pm

CalTrain executive director Jim Hartnett gets a compensation package worth about $500,000 annually Web Link. Anyone think running a train on one track between two points is worth more pay than any state Governor or the President? Anyone ever hear of a politician or utility official say anything bad about a sales tax paid by others that benefits them? Of course not.

CalTrain has foolishly thrown its lot in with CA HSR, and insists that electrification will be its savior. Rubbish. CA HSR is a bungled fraud on steel wheels, and the biggest problem confronting CalTrain is that it must run multiple expensive short trains to accommodate increasing passenger demand because it runs on a rail line that is not grade separated. Each train requires an engine, crew, and lots of fuel. Extra trains, not extra cars on existing trains, is required because of the limited distance between cross streets where some stations are, like the Menlo Park station. A longer train carrying more passengers would block Ravenswood or Oak Grove. Had CalTrain focused on grade separations along the entire right of way, they could be running longer trains to accommodate passenger demand, quickly modify train length to match ridership demand without changing schedules, at a tiny incremental cost compared to extra trains. Yes, grade separations are expensive, but the long term benefits far outweigh any benefits short electric trains on unseparated rails ever could hope to offer.

3 people like this
Posted by Cash and Carry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2017 at 2:12 am

Why bother going through the charade of a sales tax increase? He should simply make the check payable to Edmund G. Brown, Jr.

It was then-governor Edmund G. who took the money-losing peninsula commute service off Southern Pacific's hands in 1980. In the end he made the right decision. It was cheaper than building and maintaining more highways and it keeps 30,000 cars off the road every day. Self driving or not, 30,000 cars are 30,000 cars. Self-driving cars won't be the utopian panacea everyone thinks.

Cash-and-carry Jerry will be out of office in a little over a year. Good riddance to a governor who has totally neglected to prepare for California's next drought and who feels that a high-speed choo choo to nowhere is more important than water (needed for California's agriculture, an important piece of the state's economy) and who is perfectly fine with turning violent criminals out on the street before they have finished their jail sentences. It's too late to recall or impeach him. He'll be termed out by the time those things happen.

It's not Caltrain's responsibility to grade-separate every municipality's cross streets. The cities have to do it and pay for it themselves.

9 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2017 at 5:52 am


1. Caltrain doesn't take 30,000 cars off the road. Caltrain has 30,000 users. Most of those user also own cars and all of them use road vehicles. Caltrain only replaces a fraction of 30,000 commuters time on the road. There is a reason Caltrain stations have large parking lots.

2. Underground Calrain infrastructure, and it really should be underground, cost $1.5 billion a mile. How can that be cheaper than building and maintaining more road infrastructure?

3. Please explain why it is not Caltrain's responsibility to build their own grade separated infrastructure? Other business are are required to build the infrastructure they need to integrate into the modern world. Why is Caltrain different?

4. Yes, Jerry Brown will soon be gone and so will the rest of the train-worshiping hippy generation and their quixotic virtue signaling.

Like this comment
Posted by Cash and Carry
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Take Caltrain to court and compel them to build grade-separated crossings in the 16 communities they serve.

And good luck.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Umami Burger calls it quits in downtown Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 14 comments | 7,880 views

Please Apply So We Can Reject You!
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 6 comments | 2,558 views

Chocolate – I Love Thee. Let Me Count The Ways.
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 1,724 views

Couples and Premarital : "Who we are . . . depends in part . . . on who we love."
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,442 views

City’s “priorities” have become meaningless – and a waste of time
By Diana Diamond | 10 comments | 1,366 views