Members of Caltrain’s governing board who represent the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and City and County of San Francisco are accused of derailing a public review of the transit agency’s governance structure on Friday in apparent protest over SamTrans’ inquiry into their long-running debts.
This morning, board members from VTA and San Francisco who serve on the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) skipped out on the third of five special board meetings that aim to determine how Caltrain will be governed across the three counties in the future. The $2 million governance review process is required as part of the passage of Measure RR, an 1/8 cent tax passed by voters in November last year that is providing Caltrain its first ever dedicated source of funding.
SamTrans officials called the move to abandon the meeting a “great shock” and say it was orchestrated by its partner agencies.
“Our partners’ refusal to participate in today’s meeting is simply a stark example of why, on behalf of San Mateo County taxpayers, SamTrans has had to demand their attention to the historical failures and seek collections of long past due obligations,” said Charles Stone, Chair of the SamTrans Board of Directors.
The drama stems from ongoing interest by the San Francisco and VTA representatives to do away with the JPB to enhance their own respective control of Caltrain operations and management. No alternatives have been proposed yet. SamTrans suspects proposals will be costly without benefiting riders.
On Tuesday, the SamTrans Board of Directors voted to send a letter to officials with San Francisco and the VTA asking how they intend to reimburse SamTrans for the $82 million it paid to acquire the Caltrain Right-of-Way back in 1991, the year before the three counties assumed operating responsibilities for the passenger rail service from the state. “In today’s dollars that investment would be more than $150 million,” SamTrans said.
Members of the San Francisco and VTA expressed dismay over that request Friday, with Steve Heminger (San Francisco) and Bev Davis (VTA) describing it as a legal threat that forced them to abandon Friday’s governance review meeting.
In a statement, Stone said SamTrans “sent no demand for immediate payment or any itemization of debt.”
“Rather, all it has done, as a good partner seeking transparency, is write letters asking what efforts have been and are being made, as long promised, to reimburse SamTrans for its substantial investments over 30 years.”
Stone added, “SamTrans is deeply disappointed that its partner agencies have abruptly halted the $2 million plus governance review process in their refusal to participate in the long-planned workshop #3. This process was agreed to by the Caltrain Board.”
Disclaimer: Adam Alberti, the publisher of Climate Magazine, is Managing Director at Singer Associates, Inc. SamTrans is represented by Singer Associates.