Caltrain Closes in on Cuts, Fare Hikes

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Caltrain, the commuter rail line linking San Francisco and San Jose, is now officially in a fiscal emergency.  It has a budget gap that amounts to more than a third of its $100 million annual operations.  The unanimous declaration of a fiscal emergency by Caltrain's board last night allows it to move ahead with service cuts and fare hikes.

The San Mateo County Times reports that those cuts could include all weekend service (sending 18,000 riders somewhere else), four midday trains, and/or early and late day trains.  It could also raise fares by 25 cents overall, or 25 cents for each "zone" of travel.  That's not the worst part: "the board also discussed Thursday the possibility of the railroad shutting down in 2012 if they can't resolve its budget problems."  Much of this is not new -- and KALW's Nathaneal Johnson has reported on some of the implications for funding structures, and California's high-speed rail plans.

As a Bay Area native and former full-time Caltrain commuter, this is a sad process to watch.  What's worse, things like the San Francisco Giants' new ballpark, and large swaths of new downtown development were built with CalTrain in mind as a commuting artery.  No weekend service means no easy and car-free fun at this ballpark by the Bay.  The cuts could start as early as October, when the Giants could be in the World Series.  -- Collin Campbell