caltrain.jpgCaltrain’s board of directors today delayed voting on a set of proposed service cuts and fare hikes intended to save the agency from financial disaster.

After hearing more than an hour of public comment from Bay Area residents opposed to the proposed service reductions, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board of Directors delighted the standing-room-only crowd by voting unanimously to put off adopting the service changes for two weeks.

During that time, the board hopes to come up with the necessary funds to keep Caltrain running at its current service level through the coming fiscal year.

“For $3.5 million, we can keep full service,” board director and San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier said.

The board had been prepared to adopt a resolution reducing daily weekday service from 86 to 76 trains, temporarily suspending service at the Capitol, Hayward Park and Bayshore stations, increasing the base fare by 25 cents, increasing parking fees in Caltrain lots from $3 to $4, and eliminating weekend train service at 11 stations.

San Mateo Mayor Jack Matthews and other concerned speakers, including developer Alan Talansky, specifically expressed opposition to the proposed closure of the Hayward Park Station in San Mateo.

Station Park Green, Talansky’s city-council-approved project that includes 599 homes, 60,000 square feet of retail space and 10,000 square feet of office space, was conceived to sit adjacent to the Hayward Park Station and incorporated transit-oriented Caltrain service into its design.

“We shouldn’t let short-term fixes put into jeopardy community plans,” Talansky said.

Burlingame Mayor Terry Nagel also spoke in opposition to the proposed service reductions, which included the cancellation of weekend service at Burlingame Station.

The proposed cuts could have a chilling effect on the economies of regional cities, Nagel said.

Earlier in the meeting, Chuck Harvey, the San Mateo County Transit District’s deputy CEO, presented the board with a report showing that Caltrain ridership had steadily increased systemwide over the past year. Out of 32 stations in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties, 27 saw increases in riders, Harvey said.

Trains at peak hours were completely full, Harvey said. There were more riders boarding with bicycles and 50 percent more capacity to accommodate them, he said.

Caltrain’s weekend ridership was also on the rise, he said, due to the popular Baby Bullet service between San Francisco and San Jose that was introduced in January.

“We are the model,” Tissier said, before making a motion to postpone voting on the station closures, service reductions and fare hikes until a specially scheduled meeting on April 21.

“The system is not broken,” director Liz Kniss said. “If we’re ever going to ring the Bay with rail, we need Caltrain.”

Director Arthur Lloyd agreed.

“We have a success story here,” Lloyd said. “Why kick it?”

Chris Cooney, Bay City News

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