Caltrain budget to run off the rails

If 25-cent fare increases and reduced service on the weekdays seem bad, just wait till next year.

That was the message delivered Thursday by Caltrain Executive Director Mike Scanlon, who said this year’s $2.3 million budget deficit pales in comparison to the $30 million shortfall projected for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

To make up this year’s $2.3 million deficit, the agency is considering a combination of as-yet-undetermined fare increases and service reductions. A final budget plan is expected to come next month.

With customer feedback strongly against proposals to eliminate weekend service and service to Gilroy, Caltrain has taken those options off the table for this year, but they could very well return next year, Scanlon said at the agency’s board of directors meeting Thursday.

“These will be the good old days compared to what we will face in July,” said Scanlon. “We are talking about no special service, no weekend service, no late-night service, no midday service and no service to Gilroy. We are only putting off for a matter of months the day of reckoning.”

Caltrain, which has a $99 million budget, has been hurt by dwindling ridership numbers and state funding cuts. However, the biggest blow has come from drastically decreased allocations from its three transit partner agencies — Muni, SamTrans and the Valley Transportation Authority. Collectively, those operators slashed their contributions to Caltrain from $39 million to $25 million this year.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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