Sales Tax for Caltrain Improvements to Face Three Counties’ Voters

San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties will vote on Measure RR, a one-eighth-cent sales tax to be collected for the next 30 years, whose revenue would provide critical funding for Caltrain. While supporters say the rail service is at risk of shutting if the measure does not pass, this is not an emergency measure brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which has cost Caltrain the majority of its riders. Opponents of the measure point to that decrease in ridership as evidence that the need for this rail service has dropped and say it may never recover enough to justify the tax. Opponents also say that a sales tax will disproportionately affect those already most hard-hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Adina Levin, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of Caltrain and cofounder and advocacy director of the nonprofit Seamless Bay Area, talked with “Civic” about how the measure got on the ballot and what it would enable Caltrain to do. Eric Garris, a San Francisco resident who submitted the official opposition to the measure, lays out his argument against the tax.

“In the Bay Area with public transportation, we have historically tended to overemphasize capital investments, overemphasize adding extensions to the system and underinvested in funding actually running the system. It’s a really important concept for our region to understand that the goal of public transportation isn’t just solving peak commute congestion for drivers. The goal of public transportation is having a convenient service that works for people who are dependent on transit and that is convenient for anyone who wants to travel.”

— Adina Levin

“We have to tell them no. We are used to just giving the government and the bureaucrats the money that they want. And so they are used to just weak arguments and weak sales on these sorts of things. We need to say, ‘you have to really prove that you do need this money and that it’s going to benefit us.’ And I think in this case, they have failed.”

— Eric Garris

A segment from our radio show and podcast, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco, and subscribe on Apple, Google, Spotify or Stitcher

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