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San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties Measure RR: Caltrain Sales Tax

Flickr User Albert
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This is a 2-minute summary of what’s on the ballot. Click here to listen to them all.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story contained errors that have been corrected. It incorrectly stated that "Measure RR would add a 0.125% sales tax on Caltrain fares for the next 30 years." This has been corrected to say the 0.125% increase is a general sales tax increase in three Bay Area counties, not just an increase in tax on Caltrain fares.

Measure RR is on the ballot for San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. This measure would add a 0.125% sales tax in the three Bay Area counties for the next 30 years to support Caltrain. In regular times, Caltrain estimates this would bring in $100 million dollars annually for the financially struggling transit service.

Caltrain usually gets 70% of its operating funds from rider fares. But on the first day of the COVID-19 public health order, Caltrain ticket sales plummeted by 95%. As a result, Caltrain scaled back its operation by half—down to 42 trains daily. In recent months, ridership has largely returned. But, Caltrain says, current fares alone are not a reliable source of revenue for a transit service of this size.

Caltrain says, the revenue from Measure RR, will not not only allow the agency to keep fully operating, during the ebbs and flows of COVID-19, but these funds will also pay to make service more affordable and accessible for certain communities. And it will assist with the expansion and electrification of it’s system, in 2022—making trains more environmentally friendly and more frequent.

Measure RR has had quite a complicated journey to this point. Because Caltrain runs through several counties, it needed to pass through four transit boards and 3 county boards of supervisors, just to get on the ballot. Measure RR is supported by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, as well as the Cal Train Boards and the San Francisco Transit Riders advocacy group. However, a dissenter from the Libertarian Party voiced concern about adding another long term sales tax during an economic crisis.

Measure RR needs a 2/3 majority from San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo county voters to pass. If you support this initiative to help Caltrain continue full operation and to improve its trains and services, vote yes. If you don’t want to add the sales tax, vote no. 

Ben joined KALW in 2004. As Executive News Editor and then News Director, he helped the news department win numerous regional and national awards for long- and short-form journalism. He also helped teach hundreds of audio producers, many of whom work with him at KALW, today.