Editor,

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.

Adina Levin

Menlo Park

The letter writer is the

executive director of Friends of Caltrain.

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(3) comments

Terence Y

Ms. Levin, I’m unsure as to where you get your statistics about the share of low and middle-income riders doubling, but if you review Caltrain’s Fare Study of November 2018, people with an annual household income below $50k make up 16% of all Caltrain riders, 24% earn between $50k and $100k, 22% earn between $100k and $150k, 15% earn between $150k and $200k, and 23% of Caltrain riders earn $200k or more. If you research Caltrain’s fare hikes, you’ll see that Caltrain has raised their fares at least 30 times (I stopped counting) in the past 40 years. Where has the money gone? Siphoned away to other wasteful projects? Pensions and benefits? Vote no on Measure RR. If RR passes, low-income residents and people who do not ride the train will be bearing the cost of a railroad primarily used by affluent commuters.

Adina Levin

Hi, Terence, the statistics that I quoted were reported at the last Caltrain board meeting here: https://www.caltrain.com/Assets/amended+bod+packet.pdf

Adina Levin

And the unprecedented new affordability and equity policies, that will be funded by the tax, were approved by the Caltrain board in September, see the board materials here: https://www.caltrain.com/Assets/replaced+ppt.pdf

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