Caltrain and SamTrans will receive around $56 million total in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for COVID-19 financial assistance following MTC allocation approval, although the train agency is hoping for more.

David Canepa, president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and member of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, noted Caltrain will be allocated around $41 million and SamTrans $15.6 million and highlighted the commitment to public transit for the Bay Area and San Mateo County.

“Both SamTrans and Caltrain are critical to the transit needs of all of our residents and will continue to be vital as we plan for the future transportation needs of the entire region. This is truly a day to celebrate, but our work is not over. More rescue funding is on the way,” Canepa said in a press release.

The Metropolitan Transportation Committee, or MTC, is the Bay Area regional transit agency in charge of the federal funding allocation. It approved a total of $912 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for Bay Area transit operators at its July 28 meeting. MTC staff presented the numbers total for the ARP Phase 1 Distribution at the June 14 Programming and Allocations Committee meeting. MTC will develop Phase 2 funding distribution of the remaining $608 million unallocated ARP funding later in the year based on updated information like ridership patterns.

MTC is distributing the ARP funding in multiple portions to help operators in the near term and to let it gauge the recovery process for future funding. MTC’s adopted principles state that allocation distribution should be used to ensure financial stability, restore and reimagine service, advance equity and ensure transit is safe, reliable, affordable and easy to use for riders.

Caltrain and SamTrans spokesperson Dan Lieberman said starting Aug. 30, Caltrain will be running more trains than ever before while also cutting fare costs by 50%. The funding will help to support the effort to get people returning to the workplace riding again. SamTrans will use the funding to increase its service levels, improve its connections to other transit systems, adjust its service to meet rider needs and reinstate community services with in-class schooling returning in the fall.

“Transit agencies such as ours have been severely impacted by the pandemic,” Lieberman said by email. “This funding will allow us to sustain our operations, allowing those that depend on us to continue to get where they need to go.”

While Caltrain is scheduled to receive $41 million, it believes a potential data error in the revenue vehicle hours calculation has underallocated around $5.4 million. Caltrain calculated it as an underallocation of $3.2 million for the pending distribution and a remaining $2.2 million for future distribution, according to a July 26 Caltrain letter sent to MTC.

Michelle Bouchard, acting executive director, said in the letter Caltrain supported distribution funding but wanted to see the data error addressed. Caltrain will seek to be made whole again either in the next ARPA allocation or other remedies that MTC may pursue before the next distribution.

“Caltrain is currently in discussions with MTC staff on options for correction,” Lieberman said. “We are grateful for the support they have given us so far, and the first tranche will allow our plans to expand our operations to go forward.”

Gina Papan, on the MTC and also a Millbrae councilmember, said MTC would get funding out as quickly as possible to ensure the stability of Bay Area transit operators.

“People are slowly trying to get back to work, and it is going to be extremely important that these operators can continue their efforts,” Papan said.

She asked that MTC staff continue to work with Caltrain to address issues.

“It’s nice to see this funding really going to where it’s needed,” Papan said.

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