A sales tax is not an ideal way to fund public transit. But, this measure will fund transformative policies and programs that prioritize access to Caltrain for low-income communities, and will also help prevent cuts to local transit by saving money for VTA, SamTrans and MUNI. It’s clear that the net benefit of Measure RR for our communities outweighs the cost. And the alternative — Caltrain shutting down entirely — is even worse.
Caltrain’s equity studies showed that before COVID, about 30% of Caltrain’s riders were lower income. Now, during the pandemic, half of all trips are serving essential workers in health care, life sciences and government, and another 10% are trips to medical appointments. The share of low and middle-income riders has doubled, with more than twice the share of people who qualify for low-income housing assistance and more than twice the share of people in households making less than $100,000 per year, with a majority of households without access to a car. The proposed policy changes included in Measure RR will build on this trend.
Low-income communities in our area are clustered near highways and experience the greatest impact from particulate pollution with disproportionately high rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases. Without Measure RR, Caltrain won’t be able to pay for operations for its new electrified trains and expanded service, which will keep thousands of more cars off the road, to protect the health of communities — even for people who don’t ride Caltrain.
The letter writer is the
executive director of Friends of Caltrain.