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Saving Caltrain

From: Martin Engel <martinengel_at_(domain_name_was_removed)>
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 2010 11:18:08 -0800


Apropos our discussion at last month's meeting regarding the Transportation Commission (TC) Project Priority List 2011-2012, here are some key issues and questions to stimulate further TC conversation, hopefully leading to a TC position paper.

Background:

We are charged with providing a set of recommendations for the City Council to consider regarding "the survival of Caltrain." The basic problem is a newly generated concern about Caltrain's future. It has become a political issue to "Save Caltrain" and an organization calling itself "Friends of Caltrain" is emerging, with a meeting planned for January 29th (?).

The most active promoters of this new group involve various elected officials from neighboring cities such as Pat Burt, Yoriko Kishimoto, Terry Nagel as well as several other Palo Alto activists. Their agenda is to create a permanent, tax based revenue stream in response to the Caltrain claim of near bankruptcy, with a operational deficit of $30 million projected for the next fiscal year.

The issue for us to determine is what role should the Menlo Park City Council play as this interest unfolds and then make those recommendations to the city council. Without futher, detailed consideration of the background behind Caltrain's operational deficit projections, our recommendations cannot be adequate.

Issues:

*High-Speed Rail and the CHSRA/Caltrain Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
*The future of HSR on the Caltrain corridor, based on new and
evolving political considerations
*Caltrain's Strategic Plan 2035, esp. its fully build-out scenario
*Caltrain's mission, management and business plan
*Bay Area urban/regional public mass transit and Caltrain's role
*A multi-modal strategic policy governing Caltrain's commuter/transit agenda

Questions:

*Has an independent audit been conducted to substantiate Caltrain's
budget numbers?
*Has an independent consulting firm been retained to analyze
Caltrain's operations?
*What has Caltrain management been doing over the past five years
about the annual structural operating deficit? What has been its mitigating strategy?
*What is the evidentiary basis for Caltrain's persistent
justification for electrification and other expansive capital development based corridor upgrades?
*How does Caltrain justify its history of headcount expansion, salary
increases, employee benefits packages?
*What is Caltrain's 'Plan B' if the HSR project does not come to the
Caltrain corridor in the foreseeable future? What is Caltrain's risk analysis and management plan?

These questions should lead to a better understanding of an appropriate role for Menlo Park. Yes, we do need a commuter rail system that benefits all the residents of the Peninsula. How can that best be assured in the future, given all the current uncertainties?

Obviously, there are many other issues and questions pertaining to this situation. I offer these as a point of departure and look forward to lively and provocative exchanges with my colleagues and Transportation staff.

Chip, please provide this email to all my TransCom colleagues as well as the two new councilmembers.

Thanks.

Cordially,

Martin

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Martin Engel 1621 Stone Pine Lane Menlo Park, CA 94025 650-323-1670 martinengel_at_sbcglobal.net
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Received on Sun Nov 28 2010 - 11:26:02 PST

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