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Early votes have a measure that would increase the sales tax in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to provide a dedicated funding stream to Caltrain headed toward approval, based on early results from each county.

In San Francisco, the measure leads with 74.69 percent of voters in approval of sales tax increase. Voters are also in favor of the measure so far in San Mateo County with 73.11 percent voters in favor of the measure and on Santa Clara County where it leads with 68.55 percent of the vote.

Jesse Garnier/SFBay

Measure RR would levy a one-eighth sales tax increase in all three counties and expects to generate over $100 million annually for Caltrain operations. The measure needs two-thirds of voters to pass the measure in the three counties.

The measure was in limbo as recently as July, when when San Francisco supervisors had not moved forward with placing it on the ballot. When it was finally introduced by supervisors Shanman Walton and Aaron Peskin, The City’s version of the measure included stipulations on changes to how the transit system is currently governed.

Walton, who sits on the Peninsula Joint Powers Board, said The City wants to have an equal say on running Caltrain. Currently, the San Mateo County Transit Board manages Caltrain under an agreement dating back to 1991.

The City’s version had tied the release of some of the revenue generated from the sales tax to the progress on reform measures, including the hiring of an independent counsel, an auditor and CEO.

San Mateo County officials had already approved a “clean” version of the measure and were not going to take up The City’s version of the measure. Advocates for the measure were also not pleased with San Francisco’s version of the measure.

In August, during the last week to submit the measure onto the ballot in the three counties, county officials were able to cobble together a deal where three-county members on the Peninsula Joint Powers Board approved a resolution outlining a timeline to address the reform measures.

Caltrain has been hit hard financially during the Covid-19 pandemic with fewer passengers utilizing the transit system. Caltrain relies on fares to cover 70 percent of its operating costs.

Transit officials said average weekday ridership has dropped from 65,000 to 3,600.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn covers transportation and City Hall in San Francisco for SF Bay. Email: jerold@sfbay.ca. Twitter: @Jerold_Chinn. Instagram: jeroldwashere.

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