Grand Jury Says Upgrade CalTrain, Drop BART to SFO

San Mateo County panel echoes local groups' cost-benefit concerns

Article published Spring 1996

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In its 1995 report, the San Mateo County Grand Jury recommended that local transit agencies shift their emphasis towards upgrading CalTrain. At the same time, the Grand Jury recommended halting efforts to extend BART to San Francisco airport, citing limited benefits and exorbitant cost.

Thus the Grand Jury concurs with Peninsula Rail 2000 and many concerned and potentially impacted individuals and groups of north San Mateo County and the Peninsula. The report has drawn fire from State Senator Quentin Kopp and county supervisors Mike Nevin and Tom Huening who also sit on the SamTrans board of directors. (See "BART-SFO: Wounded But Not Dead").

The Grand Jury report cited a $705 million cost estimate for a CalTrain upgrade to provide service frequencies similar to BART's between downtown San Francisco, SFO airport, and San Jose. They contrasted this with the $1.27 billion pricetag for the seven-mile BART extension.

The Grand Jury made some very pointed statements. For example: "The financial conditions under which SamTrans is planning to fund the BART-SFO extension are nebulous." These appear in the Findings section of the report.

The report catalogs a pattern of behavior by the SamTrans management and a majority of its Board. In addition, it identifies the Board of Supervisors as a responsible party. The pattern of behavior by SamTrans and the Board of Supervisors chronicled by the San Mateo County Grand Jury can be summarized as one of:

The report concludes with four recommendations:

  1. That the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, and the San Mateo County members of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board cooperate and concentrate on achieving a regional rail system utilizing CalTrain as the Peninsula corridor leg of the system by upgrading its frequency to BART-like standards, electrifying it, connecting it with San Francisco International Airport's Light Rail System (ALRS), and extending it into downtown San Francisco.
  2. That the JPB investigate the feasibility of activating CalTrain service on the Dumbarton Bridge Rail Spur right-of-way for an East Bay connection.
  3. That the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and SamTrans withdraw immediately from the BART/SamTrans agreement to extend BART to San Francisco International Airport or any further into San Mateo County.
  4. That the 1996 Grand Jury continue the analysis of the transportation agencies that affect San Mateo County transportation with the purpose of reducing cost and enhancing service.

This mid-year report has four pages of background about CalTrain, BART, and SamTrans followed by nine pages of Findings, ending with the four recommendations.

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